Foster Economic Recovery for A Stronger America
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the U.S. economy and continues to threaten the lives of millions of Americans. Meanwhile, long-standing systemic health and social inequities have shown members of racial and ethnic minority groups are at increased risk, exacerbated by the fact that they make up a disproportionate share of essential workers who can’t work safely at home during the pandemic. The crisis has also exposed how infrastructure financing and investment practices governing our most basic services and networks – including transportation, water, and energy systems – too often impose additional burdens on underserved and underrepresented people and their families.
The societal inequities exacerbating this crisis for many Americans are deep and multifaceted. Our response must be as well. If economic recovery is to be complete, no group of Americans can be left behind. Accordingly, the Nation’s mayors recommend the following strategies to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, facilitate a rapid economic and employment recovery, and cultivate a more equitable distribution of income and wealth.
Direct Fiscal Relief for Cities
Cities of all sizes across the country are experiencing significant revenue shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and are in dire need of immediate and near-term infusions of direct, flexible federal aid.
Thus, mayors call for direct and significant federal aid to cities on the order of at least $250 billion of fiscal assistance, over and above state aid, which must be provided immediately to get cities through budgeting for the next fiscal year (FY 2021). The funds must be distributed by formula to all municipalities – not just those with populations exceeding 500,000 people.
COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine Distribution
The current HHS and FEMA testing blueprint leaves most responsibility for funding, designing, and executing of COVID-19 testing plans to individual states. This strategy has unfortunately proven inadequate to meet the enormous public demand for testing, resulting in insufficient testing capacity nationwide.
Therefore, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) to coordinate and increase the nationwide availability of testing and testing supplies to mitigate supply gaps across the country and ensure proper acquisition, distribution, and adequacy. Federal assistance on testing and eventual vaccine distribution must come directly to local areas to support the local public health infrastructure. Local health partners are critical to address language and cultural barriers in testing, contact tracing, and vaccine distribution to adequately curb the pandemic.
Contact Tracing Service Corps
To suppress the COVID-19 epidemic to manageable levels and return the country to economic health, the U.S. must increase nationwide efforts around contact tracing.
This is why mayors urge swift passage of the National Pandemic Response Opportunity Through Service Act (S. 3624) to create 300,000 volunteer positions that could serve as the basis for a Contact Tracing Service Corps across the country. This effort should prioritize funding for activities directly related to the Nation’s response and recovery, including: Public health services (with an emphasis on contact tracing), programs to support economic opportunity, education support (including for adult learners), and services to combat nutrition insecurity, with an emphasis on expanding programs and services in rural and high poverty communities. Further priority should be placed on local hiring in partnership with local community-based organizations, with an emphasis on out-of-work residents and opportunity youth. Development of the Contact Tracing Service Corps must be structured to create career pathways for underserved populations and facilitate long-term employment all while addressing public health needs in our Black and Latinx communities.
Extend UI Benefits, Emergency Relief Payments for Workers, Workforce Development
Hundreds of thousands of frontline essential workers are at risk of being laid off and families are struggling to feed their children and pay their bills. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 relief measures delivered in previous stimulus bills are set to expire.
To address this, Congress must pass the Unemployment Insurance Extension to continue the current $600 a week unemployment benefits boost until March 2021. Additionally, Congress must pass the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act (S. 3784) to put money directly into the hands of those hardest hit by the pandemic.
Providing additional resources to the Nation’s workforce system now is another critical step in relaunching America’s workers and businesses as the Nation begins to recover from the COVID-19 national emergency. The Nation’s mayors urge swift passage of the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act as a desperately needed investment in workers, employers, and our economy.
As businesses begin to re-open and working families need childcare, many providers across the country remain shut down due to COVID-19 or are struggling financially and operating with significantly reduced staff.
The Nation’s mayors call on Congress to pass the Childcare is Essential Act which would create a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund within the existing Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program to address this critical need.
Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and many homeowners and renters are struggling to pay their housing bills as a result of deep economic uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic.
To prevent exacerbating the pandemic crisis with the further devastation of a housing crisis, mayors urge Congress to pass the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act.
Small Business Assistance Through Local Governments
Small businesses across the country are facing grave economic hardship and many have already been forced to shut their doors for the last time, resulting in lost jobs and shockwaves to local communities.
Thus, Congress should provide new guidelines to spend the remaining $130 billion left in the Paycheck Protection Program and provide $120 billion to restaurants through the bipartisan Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed To Survive Act, or Restaurant Act. Further, the federal government must provide targeted assistance to provide direct compensation and debt forgiveness to businesses in the Nation’s farming and rural communities, as well as Minority and Woman-Owned Businesses Enterprises (MBWEs) that are struggling to stay afloat in the pandemic.