Schumer, Gillibrand say aid for local governments will be top priority in new Congress

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 January 2021 at 4:23 pm

U.S. senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said every village, town and county government would federal funding to help make up for losses in revenue and increased costs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The senators from New York met with reporters in a Zoom conference call this afternoon to discuss the Direct Support For Communities Act. They both said two federal relief packages haven’t provided needed direct aid to the municipalities, despite their fiscal straits caused by Covid-19.

“State and local aid is vital for New York. It is one of my top priorities,” Schumer told reporters today.

He will become the Senate majority leader next week after Joe Biden is sworn in as president. Schumer will replace Mitch McConnell as majority leader. The Democrats have the majority of the Chamber, which will be 50-50 with Republicans and Democrats, but Vice President Kamala Harris gives the Democrats the majority as a tie-breaker.

Schumer said, “It’s absolutely ridiculous” that there wasn’t bipartisan support for state and local governments in the first two relief packages.

Governments in New York have cut 41,000 jobs due to shrinking revenue, at a time when they are called on to provide more services. Nationwide, Schumer said 1.4 million state and municipal positions have been eliminated during the Covid pandemic.

The Direct Support For Communities Act would “save tens of thousands public service jobs,” Schumer said.

“The jobs are in jeopardy as the pandemic squeezed the local governments dry,” he said.

Schumer said President-elect Biden is “very sympathetic to these issues.”

Gillibrand said the Senate will be much more receptive to the aid for states and local governments once Schumer is the majority leader next week.

“With Chuck as majority leader this will be a billion times easier,” Gillibrand said.

The Direct Support for Communities Act would split the money with half to counties and the other to be shared among cities, towns and villages.

“Without this assistance state and local governments will be left with no good options,” she said.

If the aid doesn’t come to the local and state governments, they will have to cut services and raise taxes on residents and businesses already fiscally strained.

“The national recovery will depend on local and state governments being able to function at full capacity,” she said.