The COVID-19 pandemic forced local leaders to make tough and painful decisions around service delivery and infrastructure spending.
Cities’ ability to maintain essential service levels to protect the public’s health and safety, as well as the local economy, have been strained over the past year, and economists agree there will be a long-term economic impact on cities.
In 2020, GMA worked with ACCG to negotiate the sharing of a portion of the state’s CARES Act allocation with local governments that did not receive a direct allocation from the federal government. Ultimately, GMA and ACCG were able to negotiate with Gov. Brian Kemp and his team to obtain $371.5 million in CARES CRF funding for small cities and counties with populations under 500,000. These funds helped cities to support businesses and residents with some of their essential needs.
But CARES Act funds did not go far enough to address revenue losses and ongoing expenses for the provision of essential city services. Across the state, city leaders told GMA that they needed direct, flexible funding from the federal government. GMA heard cities loud and clear, and since last spring, the pursuit of direct, flexible federal funding for cities has been our highest federal advocacy priority. With your support, GMA worked non-stop to urge Congress to answer your call for federal funding. Most recently, in February 2021, as Congress deliberated yet another relief bill, nearly 250 city officials representing nearly 140 cities signed a letter urging Georgia’s senators to pass legislation with direct, flexible funding for local governments.
In March, the American Rescue Plan Act was passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden. This bill provides $350 billion in direct funding to all cities and counties in the U.S., including $65 billion for cities and $65 billion for counties. For Georgia, the bill provides nearly $3.5 billion to cities and counties, including $1.4 billion for cities ($551.8 million to cities with populations of 50,000 or greater and $856.6 million to cities under 50,000). The bill outlines broad uses for these funds, including revenue replacement, general fund expenses due to the pandemic and capital costs for water, sewer and broadband. The U.S. Treasury Department is working now on detailed guidelines for how funds may be used. GMA stands ready to take this guidance and prepare the resources, training and information you need to use these funds as outlined in the legislation and to meet the unique needs of your city.
The term “Cities United” is exemplified in GMA’s efforts to answer the outcry from city leaders around the state to help you respond to this unprecedented health and economic crisis. We could not have achieved this victory without you. Thank you for your continued service to your cities, and we are proud to support you and demonstrate that membership in GMA is important, and that together we can be strong and successful.
Please stay safe and healthy and let’s stay UNITED!
This story originally appeared in the March/April 2021 edition of Georgia’s Cities magazine.