D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is seeking more federal funding for the nation’s capital, citing the city’s role in the hosting the government as well as the financial burden of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our continued ability to contain the spread of the coronavirus, especially as we begin to reopen public and private spaces, is heavily reliant upon equitable funding in the next tranche of coronavirus funding,” Bowser wrote in a letter to members of Congress on Monday.
Bowser listed several measures for the next coronavirus funding bill she said are critical to the District, as approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. In her words, they include the following:
- Language amending the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act), to make the District whole in the amount of $755 million to correct the misclassification in the CARES Act.
- Provisions included in the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act” (HEROES Act) as passed by the U.S. House of Representatives to provide fiscal relief to the District of Columbia at each level of government. Unlike other jurisdictions that can share responsibility and resources when addressing the coronavirus, we have the responsibility of providing all levels of the response, including state, county, and local responses. Funding using the HEROES Act framework would help ensure that the District of Columbia is sufficiently resourced to address the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
- Language clarifying that the District of Columbia can fully participate in the Municipal Liquidity Facility. While the District can apply for the new short-term borrowing fund to help address cash flow concerns, it is limited by the Home Rule Act in being able to borrow in a meaningful way to truly address our cash flow needs. It is critical that the District has unfettered access to the municipal securities market and the associated flow of credit and liquidity to provide essential public services to its citizens.
Bowser also pointed out that D.C. has lost a considerable amount of money due to the pandemic.
“D.C.’s Fiscal Year 2021 Local Budget Act of 2020, currently being considered by the D.C. Council, reflects a conservative estimate for a loss of $1.5 billion in revenues over this and the next fiscal year alone,” she wrote.
“We have fully obligated the $495 million in CARES Act Coronavirus relief funds and we have also used our emergency and contingency reserves of nearly $450 million to respond to the pandemic.”
Bowser said the financial impact of the disease goes further than government operations, calling the loss of $600 weekly unemployment benefits to D.C. residents “devastating.”
“Our residents need this funding to keep their families afloat. It would be unconscionable to leave them without this vital lifeline,” she said, adding the city already spends hundreds of millions on public safety, health care costs, small business assistance and more.
“Having to assume the cost of basic needs of thousands of citizens would be too monumental for our local economy to bear.”
She said the District and its residents have “risen to the challenge” presented by the pandemic, but “cannot sustain its current response without significant federal support.”
“As the seat of the federal government, whose staff, including your own, come from across the country, we are uniquely concerned about the possibility of a new wave of cases facing the District in the coming weeks and months,” Bowser wrote.
“Equitable funding is critical to ensuring the District of Columbia can continue to respond to the ever-evolving circumstances rapidly and efficiently.”
The letter was addressed to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
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