Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop responds to Mitch McConnell's comment that cities and states seeking coronavirus aid should just file for bankruptcy.
As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans refuse to provide coronavirus relief to Democratic-led cities and states grappling with the coronavirus, the mayor of the second-largest city in New Jersey is firing back.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, a Democrat whose city, second in population in the state only to Newark, has been hit hard by the pandemic, said cities seeking coronavirus aid are not asking for bailouts.
In an interview with the American Independent, Fulop said he and other city and state leaders simply want the same financial help to deal with the hardships caused by the coronavirus that corporations have received.
Speaking of McConnell, Fulop said, "Our goal at this point is no different than how he's prioritized big corporations that they've bailed out as of now, whether it's Carnival or Boeing or United Airlines."
McConnell alleges that Democratic-led governments seeking aid have mismanaged their budgets in the past and should have to file for bankruptcy instead.
Under current law, states do not have the ability to file for bankruptcy.
McConnell told Fox News in April: "We're not interested in solving their pension problems for them. We're not interested in rescuing them from bad decisions they've made in the past, we're not going to let them take advantage of this pandemic to solve a lot of problems that they created themselves themselves and bad decisions in the past."
Other Republican lawmakers agree. They say they oppose giving coronavirus relief funding to Democratic-led states, even though those states pay more in federal tax dollars than they take from the system.
But Fulop says Jersey City has not mismanaged its budget. Moody's this month rated Jersey City's finances "stable," even as other cities have had their credit ratings downgraded.
But due to the coronavirus, the city is facing a $70 million budget shortfall, $50 million of which stems from the loss of revenue from payroll taxes, hotel taxes, parking fees, and permit fees. The other $20 million is from added city expenses, such as providing coronavirus testing to all Jersey City residents.
Fulop has already had to resort to measures such as hiring freezes and buyouts to make up for the losses. And without any aid, Fulop said, more cuts may be on the horizon.
"We're going to have to make tough decisions that hurt working class people if we don't receive support," Fulop said.
House Democrats last week passed the HEROES Act, which would provide $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments in both Democratic- and Republican-led states. McConnell's own home state of Kentucky would receive $7 billion in aid.
But Senate Republicans are refusing to take up any more coronavirus relief bills. Donald Trump threatened to veto the HEROES Act; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says he doesn't see the "need" for more aid; and McConnell said he feels no sense of "urgency" to pass more relief funding.
On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said not providing aid to states and cities that need it could make the economic recovery harder.
"We have the evidence of the global financial crisis and the years afterward, where state and local government layoffs and lack of hiring did weigh on economic growth," Powell said during a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee.
A study released by the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute Tuesday said that failure to provide aid to cities and states would guarantee a "prolonged depression."
"If federal aid is passed that is sufficient to close the enormous revenue shortfalls the economic crisis will cause for state and local governments, it will create or save roughly 5–6 million jobs by the end of 2021. Without this aid, we will remain at least that far away from a full economic recovery by then," the study found.
As for Fulop, he's not asking for anything different than what businesses seeking aid to help make up for coronavirus losses requested, he said.
"We want to be treated the same way that McConnell has treated the big corporations which he advocates for," said Fulop.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.