The coronavirus crisis and subsequent economic slowdown has forced many local governments between a rock and a hard place. With declining revenues, many will be forced to make drastic cuts. So do they lay off first responders and teachers, or do they cut funding for public health departments in the middle of a global pandemic?
That’s the message to Congress from government leaders in California and four other western states in a letter sent Monday: states and local governments need help dealing with the economic fallout of the coronavirus, to the tune of $1 trillion.
The letter was signed by governors and legislative leaders in the Western States Pact, which emerged as a way for states to coordinate their public health and economic response to the pandemic. It was originally formed by California, Oregon and Washington, while Colorado and Nevada have since joined.
“This aid would preserve core government services like public health, public safety, public education and help people get back to work,” the letter reads in part.
Most officials who signed the letter are Democrats. California State Assembly Minority Leader Marie Waldron was the only Republican to add her name.
The letter represents a formal request California Gov. Gavin Newsom has been making for weeks: that the federal government step in to help states and local governments shoulder the economic toll the virus is taking.
“My optimism is conditioned on this: more federal support,” Newsom said last week. “We’re seeing economic numbers, unemployment numbers, more acute than anything we’ve seen in modern times. We need the federal government to recognize this.”
Local governments with more than 500,000 residents got some relief from the federal CARES Acts, but the aid package left smaller cities and counties out. On Monday, Newsom said around 4.5 million Californians have filed for first time unemployment claims since March 12.
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