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Kentuckians Call for Robust Federal Aid

By Pete Levine ·

Two Kentucky mayors and a Kentucky front-line worker sounded the alarm Thursday for urgent federal relief for states, cities and towns, joining a bipartisan chorus seeking such assistance to avert an economic disaster for our nation.

Participating in a press call were Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Greenville Mayor Jan Yonts, as well as David Shockley, a parks laborer from Paducah.

They each painted a stark picture of the economic effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their cities, and explained the urgency for the U.S. Senate to pass a major stimulus package that provides unrestricted federal aid to states, cities and towns so they can beat this pandemic and reopen the economy – not just in Kentucky but across the country.

“In Louisville, in less than three months, our city budget has experienced a roughly $27 million deficit. The picture will only get worst next year. We’re anticipating $100 million needed to battle COVID-19,” Fischer said.

Louisville, which has nearly 618,000 residents, is expected to have a $250 million, two-year budget shortfall, he added.

“The bottom line is without additional revenues we’ll have to cut every department and service, including public safety. We’re looking to lay off 600 metro employees, including first responders and health care employees,” Fischer said. “We need the U.S. Senate to take up this cause as well. The longer we delay, the deeper a hole we will dig.”

Yonts said small towns like Greenville, a community of just over 4,200 people, were not included among the recipients for aid through the previous relief packages passed by Congress.

“We still have to provide essential services for our community,” Yonts said. “During this pandemic, demand has gone up while tax revenue has gone down. We have a $2.3 million budget shortfall created by the pandemic. This illustrates why we need Congress to move urgently on aid for states, cities and towns.”

Yonts added that it’s important to remember both the large cities and smaller communities, saying that the only way to get the economy going again is through strong public services.

In Paducah, a city of about 25,000 residents, Shockley said he has seen a weakening in public services, a preview of worse things to come if states, towns and cities don’t receive the federal aid they need.

“The pools and sprinkler parks that we maintain will not open this year because the power and water they require make them too expensive to operate,” said Shockley. “The park facilities that host senior meal pickups – which could still operate using social distancing – have been shuttered, which means that a vital social outlet for lonely seniors has ceased to exist.”

The city has gone so far as to pull water and electrical meters from recreational facilities, trying to save every dollar, said Shockley, president of AFSCME Local 1586 (Council 962).

“If the economy continues on this path due to the shutdown, layoffs or furloughs might not be far off. Dedicated public service workers like myself might be out of our jobs,” Shockley said.

A report last week from Bloomberg shows municipalities across the country are projected to lose hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue due to the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus. The only solution is for the federal government to provide states, cities and towns with the aid they need to get back on their feet, restore their economies and continue to battle the coronavirus.

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s majority leader, has expressed opposition to state and local aid. The House of Representatives has approved providing $1 trillion in relief to states, cities and towns.

“Some senators may not think too much about smaller cities like Paducah when they’re in Washington, but it’s towns like mine that are the backbone of our state and our country,” Shockley said. “People in Paducah don’t view public services like clean streets and water as a red state or blue state issue. It’s not about politics for us. This is our home.”

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