Director of Communications
Michigan Municipal League
(734) 669-6317; C: (810) 874-1073
[email protected]; www.mml.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 14, 2020
Michigan Community Leaders Ask U.S. Congress to Support HEROES Act
Direct Funding to Local Governments of All Sizes is Essential
With city expenses up and revenues in free fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan city officials today called on Michigan’s members of Congress to support the pending HEROES Act, which would allocate $375 billion to cities around the nation.
Mayors, council leaders and a city manager from Saginaw, Westland, Muskegon, Kalamazoo and Midland joined Michigan Municipal League CEO & Executive Dan Gilmartin in a media call Wednesday afternoon to highlight the plight of communities that are on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle, providing emergency medical and other essential services as revenues plummet. The National League of Cities projects Michigan cities will lose 37 percent of revenues, which puts the Great Lakes State as fourth highest in the nation in projected revenue losses. Go here to view the new NLC report with these details.
“We have already cut dozens of jobs from the city payroll, including in my office, and are facing more drastic service reductions that our citizens need,” said Bill Wild, mayor of Westland and vice president of the League board. “We see state revenues dropping and that means reductions in revenue sharing. The federal government has helped businesses – now it needs to aid cities that are vital to the success of those businesses, too.”
“In Midland, property taxes make up 66 percent of our budget,” said Midland Mayor Maureen Donker. “A significant share of that comes from commercial property, often paid by businesses that frankly may have difficulty making timely payments this year. Add in about 8 percent of our budget coming from revenue sharing that the state likely will cut, and we have a perfect financial storm that could force us to make significant and impactful cuts across all sections of our budget – unless the federal government acts to help cities as it has helped businesses and individuals.”
Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema said public safety is nearly half of his community’s budget. “If we must cut, there is little doubt that police and fire protection will carry part of the burden,” said Ritsema. “We have focused on the virus as a public safety issue, but daily police and fire service is just as vital in saving lives and our ability to provide a community where people can thrive and businesses can grow.”
League President and Saginaw Mayor Pro Tem Brenda F. Moore said her city has dramatically cut services over the last 20 years. “Our police force is already down, despite crime being an ongoing concern. If our city is not safe, people will not come here to live and work. I’m asking all of our members of Congress to step up and support the HEROES Act to support our communities.”
Muskegon Mayor Stephen Gawron said the projected revenue shortfalls come as his city was making strides in restoring its downtown. “We know people move to cities that can provide important services – retail, health care, education – along with great parks and events that make a community special. Muskegon has been moving forward but without direct federal support, I’m afraid we will be retrenching once again, and that doesn’t help our region’s economy.”
Gilmartin pointed out that the initial action by Congress, the CARES Act, only provided minimal relief to governments in Michigan having populations above 500,000 and all communities under that population threshold were excluded.
“The HEROES Act is an important step toward addressing what the National League of Cities projects will be a 37.3 percent loss in revenue for Michigan cities, with additional revenue losses expected for the next two years. Frankly, we will see cities going bankrupt without this support, massive layoffs including police and fire that will endanger public safety, and an inability to meet the basic expectations of citizens. Congress needs to act quickly, and we hope all of our members are listening to city officials who are among the most respected of any elected officials.”
For further examples of budget cutting now under way, please visit this page for a list of articles providing details. For a projection of the aid to Michigan cities anticipated if the HEROES Act passes as it stood on Wednesday, go here. And for more information on the issue nationally, go to the NLC’s Cities are Essential website here.
You can view today’s news event here on the League’s Facebook page.
For additional information contact Matt Bach, communications director for the Michigan Municipal League, at 810-874-1073 and [email protected].
About the League: Michigan Municipal League is dedicated to making Michigan’s communities better by thoughtfully innovating programs, energetically connecting ideas and people, actively serving members with resources and services, and passionately inspiring positive change for Michigan’s greatest centers of potential: its communities. The League advocates on behalf of its member communities in Lansing, Washington, D.C., and the courts; provides educational opportunities for elected and appointed municipal officials; and assists municipal leaders in administering services to their communities through League programs and services. Learn more at mml.org.