Last month, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Louisiana will be pausing reopening efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus as many areas begin to see alarming spikes of infections. As this concerning trend becomes all too common elsewhere, it also underscores why municipalities that have been on the front lines since the beginning of the pandemic need a lifeline from Congress now to help keep our communities safe and prosperous.
Cities across Louisiana are seeing their budgets strained due to the unprecedented reductions in tax revenue coupled with skyrocketing expenses related to the pandemic. In 2020 alone, cities in Louisiana are projected to experience a revenue shortfall of 32.2% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by the National League of Cities. These shortfalls mean cities like New Roads and others will be forced to lay off or furlough employees, cancel or delay critical infrastructure projects that create jobs and local business activity and make cuts to essential services that individuals and businesses need during these unprecedented times.
Municipalities are feeling the effects of these budget pressures. Just this week, 65% of cities across the country indicated they are being forced to delay or cancel capital expenditures and infrastructure projects, further slowing job growth and local economic activity. We need Congress to act quickly before these forced cuts hamper our ability to safely reopen our communities and stall the nation’s economic recovery. Direct federal assistance to cities, towns and villages is critical for communities like mine to ensure we can deliver fiscal certainty and economic security to citizens.
Thankfully, there are signs of growing bipartisan momentum for supporting cities in Louisiana and across the country. A bipartisan group of senators, including our own Bill Cassidy, recently introduced the SMART Act, a bill that would provide $500 billion in emergency funding to state and local governments to help jumpstart the country’s economic recovery.
Local, state and national leaders must recognize that, just as the economic shutdown was bipartisan, the national economic recovery, including aid to cities, must be bipartisan as well. Delivery of essential services, as well as millions of jobs that provide the livelihood for a large number of American families, depend on urgent action by Congress to avoid more layoffs, canceled projects, and cuts to essential services.
I urge our congressional delegation to work in a bipartisan fashion to deliver the support that our cities, towns and villages across America need to safely reopen.