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Published on Jul 29, 2020

Congress debates more coronavirus relief — No help for cities in Senate proposal

Contact: Peter King, Jacob Ewing

On July 27, Senate Republicans introduced an initial proposal for the next round of federal coronavirus relief. Referred to as the HEALS Act, unfortunately the proposal does not include additional funds for state and local governments. With the release of the bill, negotiations between the Senate, House, and administration are beginning with the hope of passing Congress before the August recess.

In response to the HEALS Act, Association of Washington Cities (AWC) CEO Peter King stated, “We are grateful to our federal lawmakers, particularly Senators Murray and Cantwell, who have championed city issues over the past several months. Our state’s members of Congress understand the unique challenges that cities of all sizes face in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. We urge members of the Senate and House to agree that the next relief package must include critical fiscal aid for cities. Our residents are depending on the essential services that cities provide to our communities.”

“Our 281 cities and towns are on the front lines of supporting Washington residents during these trying times. Cities have stepped up to the challenge by providing critical relief and support to their businesses and community members. While flexibility to use CARES Act funds to replace lost revenues is a step in the right direction, it is insufficient to solve the fiscal crisis many cities face. If cities are to continue providing access to critical public services as well as supporting community members in need, we must have direct federal economic support,” noted King.

In a recent survey about the impacts of COVID-19 on cities published by AWC, 90% of responding cities projected immediate revenue losses with a third of cities expecting revenue reductions of more than 15% in 2020 alone. In total, cities are expected to lose between $300 million to $700 million during the current fiscal year. Additionally, 87% of cities have incurred unbudgeted expenses due to the pandemic. In response to these expenses, cities are canceling capital projects, reducing or eliminating programs, and freezing hiring of critical positions.

AWC partnered with the National League of Cities in May to launch the Cities Are Essential campaign, calling on the federal government to ensure flexible, direct funding relief provided to America’s municipalities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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AWC serves its members through advocacy, education, and services. Founded in 1933, AWC is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan corporation that represents Washington's cities and towns before the state legislature, the state executive branch, and with regulatory agencies. Membership is voluntary. However, AWC consistently maintains 100 percent participation from Washington’s 281 cities and towns. AWC also provides training, data and publications, and programs such as the AWC Employee Benefit Trust, AWC Risk Management Service Agency, AWC Workers’ Comp Retro, AWC Drug and Alcohol Consortium, and AWC GIS Consortium.

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