Michigan mayors tell Congress: Send us COVID relief cash

Michigan mayors from both sides of the aisle joined together Friday to urge federal lawmakers to send aid to municipalities struggling in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Rust Belt mayors from cities in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania want next stimulus bill from Congress to support cities like Lansing and Rochester Hills since the last one only provided funding for cities with a population of 500,000 more more, such as Detroit. 

"Some have said in negotiations that they're concerned about communities using this in inappropriate ways to cover past mistakes," said Bryan Barnett, the Republican mayor of Rochester Hills. "Our city is AAA bond rated. We've been well run, conservatively run, and we're in the middle of a financial mess because of COVID."

Thirty percent of Rochester Hills' budget is at risk of being slashed if no federal aid is sent to help, Barnett said. The city has already imposed layoffs and furloughs. In Lansing, the $144 million general fund budget was cut $12.5 million, Democratic Mayor Andy Schor said.

"We had to reduce our rainy day fund, but moving forward that's not going to be an option," Schor said. "We are now down to a dangerously low level."

On Wednesday, more than 300 mayors sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting $250 billion in direct federal aid to all cities.

Mayors have been pushing for federal help since the March passage of the CARES Act COVID-19 stimulus package, which gave money to 36 municipalities with populations exceeding 500,000. Detroit, the only city in Michigan to receive funding, got $116.9 million.

Counties with the same population size were also eligible for funds. In Michigan, Wayne County received $188 million, Oakland County received $219 million, Macomb received $152.5 million and Kent received $114.6 million. Michigan received $3.9 billion as part of the $150 billion federal stimulus package passed in March.

Detroit also received $31 million to support residents by covering back rent, stopping evictions and housing Detroit's homeless. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in early June said he had requested additional dollars to help the city. 

Duggan has said he plans to use the city's surplus funding, lay off part-timers and reduce pay and hours of some other city employees to deal with a $348 million deficit in the current and next fiscal year due to the COVID-19 crisis. 

The Democratic-controlled House has approved the HEROES Act , which would provide $1 trillion to cities and states to help them make up for tax revenue lost because of the pandemic. But the GOP Senate leadership's proposed HEALS Act doesn't have money specifically targeted for smaller city governments.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said his proposed package provides $105 billion in aid for local and state governments in the form of aid for schools. 

Negotiations between House Democrats and President Donald Trump's administration are continuing as the economy slowly recovers from the pandemic while some states battle spikes in cases. Friday's jobs report showed 1.8 million jobs were added in July, a smaller increase than June's record addition of 4.8 million jobs. There have now been 20 straight weeks of unemployment filings topping 1 million, ABC reported.

"Today's jobs report that was released only underscores how far we have to go to recover from this pandemic," Louisville, Kentucky Mayor Greg Fisher said. "We believe today's numbers reflect some people coming back to work most of their old jobs, but we remain deeply concerned about the fate of the economy as the coronavirus continues to spread."

Staff Writer Melissa Burke contributed

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