Pennsylvania mayors appeal to Congress for federal aid
HARRISBURG — Mayors in Pennsylvania are challenging the state’s members of Congress to help them get direct budget aid from the federal government, warning that cities of all sizes face steep deficits and deep service cuts as a result of the coronavirus’ impact on the economy.
With Washington in a stalemate over a new round of funding, mayors warned of severe consequences on services and the economy without an injection of federal aid to cover slackening tax collections. They also pointed out that they received little in trickle down from a prior round of aid to cover coronavirus costs that went to states and the most heavily populated counties.
Pennsylvania’s 20-member congressional delegation is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, with nearly every Republican balking at another round of federal aid.
Warning against more deficit spending, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in a statement Tuesday that states and counties should spend the federal aid they received in the spring before Congress considers another aid package.
“Before Congress spends even more money it doesn’t actually have, states and counties should allocate their existing allotments so we can thoughtfully determine what needs remain,” Toomey said.
Congress has already sent about a half-trillion dollars to state and local governments, boosted Medicaid reimbursements and delivered cash to public health programs, hospitals, schools and mass transit, Toomey said.
Pennsylvania state government, Philadelphia and its six other most heavily populated counties received about $5 billion in aid to cover virus-related costs. Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers agreed to spend $2.6 billion of the nearly $4 billion that went to state government, including sharing some of it with counties that did not get a direct share.
Another roughly $1.3 billion remains uncommitted.
But mayors say the state needs that money to cover its own costs — state government faces a deficit through next June whose projections are between $5 billion and $6 billion — and that it cannot be counted on to help avoid municipal budget cuts that will have a harsh impact on services, residents and the economy.
“The senator voted on these bills,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said in a video news conference organized by the Pennsylvania Municipal League. “He knows the money is not coming to the cities, and yet he is going to allow hundreds of firefighters and police officers to lose their jobs.”