As the City of Kankakee works to present a budget in the coming months, it is vital congressional leaders consider the role and impact of municipalities on residents, the economy and services. While many cities, villages and towns face furloughs and reduction in services to balance budgets, I am hopeful Washington responds to what is happening to Main Streets across America.
Every government in the United States is being impacted by COVID-19. And while the first federal package to respond to the novel coronavirus was passed during March 2020, there was no direct funding to cities, villages and towns. Supporting local government s equates to quality of life for residents. Cities provide services which protect public health and safety, the quality of neighborhoods, the climate of businesses and more. Without the support needed at this dire time, cities become less safe, less healthy, less attractive and less prosperous.
At this time, The Illinois Municipal League (IML) and the National League of Cities (NLC) have partnered to form a Cities Are Essential campaign which is calling on members of Congress to provide $500 billion in direct federal aid and economic relief over the next two years to support the communities on the front line of America’s response to COVID-19 because it promotes aid to all municipalities regardless of population size. Citing that some municipalities and states have been neglectful in managing pension liabilities, several congressional leaders have opposed the current proposal for direct aid.
Though The City of Kankakee faces challenges with pension liabilities, the city has been responsible in passing balanced municipal budgets for more than 11 consecutive years. In the past three years, the City of Kankakee has also amended budgets to promote transparency in response to the losses of significant revenues.
This round of funding is imperative because the local governments are being charged with coordinating and executing responses to COVID-19. In the City of Kankakee, we are currently under a shelter in place executive order by Gov. Pritzker. While I agree human life is priority, there is an economic impact as a result of losses of sales tax revenues, gaming revenues, utility taxes and more. Additional costs to protect employees and the public we serve have led to unexpected expenditures related to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), cleaning products and increasing the frequency of cleaning services for municipal buildings.
Local governments are not looking for a bailout. The federal government is relying on local governments to respond. And while responding to a pandemic is overwhelming for many leaders, I believe local governments are best to respond because we are in the trenches every single day to address the needs of our residents. And while the needs are many, this is not the time for the expectation to be followed with unfunded mandates.
COVID-19 has presented a global crisis impacting the health, economy and quality of life for Americans across the country. If we are truly in this together, I urge congressional leaders to take prompt action to partner with local governments and support direct aid to allow cities like Kankakee, Illinois and others across the country to get back in business and move forward.
Mayor of Kankakee