Mayor Eric Garcetti and mayors across the nation called Friday for more federal funding to help cities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but some of them were met with pushback from Congress members during a virtual committee hearing.
During a briefing with the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Garcetti said cities will need $250 billion in federal relief in order to maintain their financial stability.
“When Republicans can vote for things like cash assistance and Democrats can step up and help our first responders, we start to erode these walls that classify us first and foremost by our party affiliation before our personal qualities or characteristics and our joint patriotism,” said Garcetti, a registered Democrat.
The argument about more federal funding was centered on how cities and states have responded to the COIVD-19 pandemic, with some congress members and mayors saying they need businesses to reopen, but they also need relief from the pandemic.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, criticized Garcetti’s handling of closing certain businesses and houses of worship by using his words from April when the mayor said “snitches get rewards” for reporting businesses deemed not essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he cited the Trump administration’s recent letter that stated the Los Angeles COVID-19 approach as “heavy-handed.”
Jordan, after hearing other mayors speak about their approaches to COVID-19, said, “Frankly, what a contrast that is with Mayor Garcetti and Governor Newsom. Governor Newsom closed churches in California and was sued. Mayor Garcetti closed gun shops in Los Angeles and was sued. Mayor Garcetti said … `snitches get rewards.’ I don’t know what that means.”
The snitches quote was taken from the context of Garcetti referring to Los Angeles’s Neighborhood Ambassadors program through the City Attorney’s Office, which recommended people call to report nonessential businesses operating illegally under the Safer at Home order.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said the local competition for federal funding and support during the pandemic has made it harder to secure necessary resources against COVID-19.
“Mayor Garcetti and I shouldn’t be bidding against each other, driving up cost and risking lives,” Durkan said. “End the scavenger hunt, `Hunger Games’ process, especially as we try to reopen and prepare for the next wave of the virus.”
Mary Jane Scott, mayor of Mangum, Oklahoma, said although her city has about 2,700 residents, they’ve had a 10.9% infection rate.
“About 30% or more of our residents are 65 years or older, so we have a vulnerable population,” Scott said. “We were hit hard when the pandemic hit. Over half the population from our nursing home was infected with the virus, and of course, several of the employees were infected with the virus.”
“But now we have a great financial concern,” Scott said. “I have visited with farmers, ranchers, business owners and regular citizens in rural southwest Oklahoma regarding how this affected them. The ranchers are concerned about the sale of their cattle and the trade deals.”
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, asked Garcetti how federal funding would help Los Angeles, after a Tuesday announcement that Los Angeles would dedicate $100 million of the $694 million in federal funding the city is already slated to receive to assist renters affected by the pandemic.
“It could finish it off in a great way,” Garcetti said. “It is a model to begin with, but with your leadership, we could see as much as half of the city be able to get through some months of assistance as we reopen the economy and get them back to work. It’s the difference between being homeless and not.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said her city is facing a shortfall in its budget this year of tens of millions of dollars.
“It does not matter if you are located In a blue state or red state, we are all in a state of emergency as it relates to COVID-19,” Bottoms said.
Mayor Lenny Curry of Jacksonville, Florida, said hat since his city declared a state of emergency, drug-overdoses have increased and businesses are financially languishing.
“People are struggling with depression and other mental health issues,” Curry said. “Many more are anxious to know how they’ll keep their homes, pay their bills and just simply put food on the table.”
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