We thank our federal partner, the National League of Cities (NLC), which is committed to securing federal coronavirus aid for all municipalities – no matter how small or large they be. And it has become abundantly clear that the only bill, currently under consideration, promising to provide that aid to every municipality in New Jersey, and across the Nation, is H.R. 6467, the Coronavirus Community Relief Act (CCRA).
We have to thank many members of the New Jersey Congressional Delegation for their attention to the impact that this crisis is having, and will continue to have, on local programs and services, and on local budgets. Chief among them is Congressman Tom Malinowski, an original cosponsor of the CCRA. He has been joined, as an advocate for this essential funding bill, by many of his colleagues in the House, including our own State’s Representatives Josh Gottheimer, Mikie Sherrill, Albio Sires, Jeff Van Drew, Bonnie Watson Coleman, and Andy Kim. Senator Cory Booker has indicated his intention to introduce a companion measure in the United States Senate.
The final outcome of debates and negotiations in the Capitol cannot be known. But whether H.R. 6467 passes into law, or the provisions of the CCRA are included in the next large COVID bill, or some other vehicle emerges that provides assistance to every New Jersey municipality, those who have advanced the bill deserve the gratitude of local officials, all around the Garden State. The fact is that the introduction of this bill, its bipartisan co-sponsorship, andit's over 140 House co-sponsors have forced federal legislative leadership, in both Houses and in both parties, to acknowledge the problems facing the thousands of mid- and smaller-sized municipalities and counties, all of which were ignored in previous COVID bills.
Throughout the current crisis, the leadership and staff of the NLC as they always do, have been lobbying Congress and the Administration on behalf of all of America’s Hometown Mayors and municipal Governing Body Members. It was in response to NLC’s efforts and in acknowledgment of your needs that the CCRA was introduced. It was because of their advocacy that the bill has gained so many co-sponsors in so short a time. NLC continues to emphasize the need for broad and flexible federal assistance to municipal governments in their daily contacts with House and Senate Leadership and with members of the delegations of all the States.
Thanks to the information that NLC provides to the staff of the New Jersey League, and that which we glean from our own sources, we can let you know what is happening in Washington, and what you can do to influence a favorable outcome. We thank all of you for your consistent, calm, compassionate, and dedicated leadership during this unprecedented crisis. And, especially, we thank those of you, who have contacted your Congress Members. That has led several of them to join as co-sponsors to the bill.
Today, May 5, NLC will be launching a national media campaign to better focus attention on what municipalities are doing in response to the pandemic, on what they need from Washington to continue to do it, and on what they will need to restore local economies and the social fabric of their communities, which has been frayed by the stress of COVID-19.
The Cities Are Essential campaign calls for $500 billion in direct federal aid and economic relief from the COVID-19 pandemic over the next two years to support all communities who support America’s people. NLC is coordinating this effort in concert with the National Association of Counties (NACO) and the US Conference of Mayors (USCoM).
The campaign is mobilizing the best of NLC’s research and data, legislative strategy, marketing, and communications, and coalition-building efforts to achieve one clear goal: Direct federal support of cities, towns, townships, boroughs, and villages, regardless of size.
Local elected officials are working on the front lines of the emergency response. Municipal governments are responding daily to the crisis with our first responders (fire, EMS, and police), coordinating regionally with one another across jurisdictional lines, enacting difficult and fiscally challenging emergency measures to slow the coronavirus epidemic, passing ordinances to limit the worst economic outcomes for residents and small businesses on the margins, and spending such sums as necessary to protect public health (both physical and psychological), public safety, and the economy in this extraordinary time. County governments are responsible for emergency operations centers, human services, jail management, 911 services, coroners, and medical examiners.
When a Main Street business or an individual citizen is looking for help, the first person they turn to is a local elected official. And when the virus, or any health emergency, occurs, the first person to respond is employed and/or supported by a New Jersey local government. Local health officials are coordinating support to local assisted living facilities. Local public works continue to provide essential service.
At the local level, the battle to contain COVID-19 is crisis-management beyond anything in recent memory. Both counties and cities are expending an unprecedented amount of resources while losing historic amounts of revenue. And for many of our communities, the peak of the pandemic has yet to be reached. All local governments, regardless of population, urgently need direct federal funding to help us continue to fight COVID-19 and protect our residents through the summer and beyond.
While municipalities continue to deliver vital services to the people of New Jersey, it is only a matter of time before the virus has an impact on property tax collection rates. And, as in New Jersey, municipal government collects property taxes on behalf of schools and counties, and must provide those entities with 100% of their levies, the lack of non-property tax resources and reduced collection rates will only serve to erode local services and could well necessitate staff reductions. This would come at the worst possible time when more local residents are relying more than usual on essential public services; and when the rate of unemployment is already far too high.
Please do whatever you can to spread the word.