Help small towns with virus recovery too
This guest editorial appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The coronavirus is wreaking havoc in small towns and cities across America. Once again, the federal government ignored citizens living outside the big cities. The $3 trillion in coronavirus aid isn’t heading to hometown America, but to large municipalities.
Direct relief was targeted only to communities of 500,000 people or more. That leaves out a lot of Americans.
Congress can provide some relief — if the political world cares to show that smaller cities and towns matter. A bipartisan Senate bill would send dollars to smaller communities cut out of funding through the already existing coronavirus relief law — ironically called the CARES Act, which provides relief only to large metropolitan areas.
The State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition, or SMART, Act would extend $500 billion in coronavirus relief to smaller cities, towns and counties. Congress must act quickly; the coronavirus brought sudden disaster to communities across America. That on top of the struggles many communities in middle America already face, from high unemployment rates to dealing with the opioid crisis.
Many towns rely on income from a large festival or two every year that draws tourists into town — those events are canceled. Volunteer fire departments, which depend on funding from department-sponsored festivals or fundraising dinners, are being financially strangled.
Middle America bears the brunt of the virus with little relief. City and town workers have been furloughed, including essential public safety providers, firefighters and police. Ambulance services have been cut. There is no money to fix roads damaged by spring floods.
The United States Conference of Mayors has compiled a database of the stunning impacts of the coronavirus crisis on cities across America. Budget cuts, layoffs and furloughs, shutdowns of public services, cancellation of planned infrastructure repairs.
With so many people out of work, water and sewer bill payments lag, only adding to the struggles of smaller cities and towns.
Recovery funds must be provided to the many cities and counties not covered by the provisions of existing virus aid legislation. Congress must provide some relief to Middle America. Passing the SMART Act would be a start.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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