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League Bulletin

July 17, 2020

WHAT HAPPENED: The governor’s desk cleared of pending bills, and the state legislature formally closed things down (save for interim committee meetings) until Sept. 2. But there’s still Congress, and that merits your attention.   

WHAT IT MEANS: The need for aid to state and local governments from Capitol Hill is an intensifying focus as COVID-19 harms the sources of revenue that support important daily services for our communities. Major news sources are covering it, including the Washington Post, which touched base with North Carolina, interviewed NCLM and published words from Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan. 

ON TAP: Keep the communication up with your members of Congress on this very crucial need. The time is now. We may hear from the U.S. Senate next week on its plans; urge senators to include direct appropriations to cities and towns.

THE SKINNY: We don’t know the future of COVID-19, but we do know what’s at stake. We’re seeing it. Check out this brief video, which succinctly explains the issue, and please share it on your own social media channels for more public awareness. Much more on this topic follows in this Bulletin. 

Gov. Roy Cooper has announced that he will not extend the utility shutoff prohibition created by Executive Order 124. That order "will be expiring at the end of this month," the governor said in a letter Friday to utility providers, "but I want to stress that the section of the Order pertaining to repayment plans of at least six months will remain in place. I encourage you to reach out to your customers not only to set up these plans, but to also connect them with any available relief that can help them avoid utility disconnections." 

Governor Cooper in the letter thanked providers for "doing your part to help struggling residents of North Carolina. As utility service providers, your willingness to work with customers to ease the impact of this pandemic is critical." The decision comes as a number of municipal water, sewer and electricity utilities faced substantial financial problems as large numbers of customers had stopped paying bills while those utilities faced fixed costs that had to be paid. Read the full letter.

"North Carolina's cities and towns are a lot like the foundation of a building," begins a quick and digestible video on why the COVID-19 pandemic has been the challenge of a lifetime for cities and towns, where 80 percent of all jobs in North Carolina are found. “Foundation” is more than an analogy -- municipalities invest in and maintain infrastructure and services that create the underpinnings for local economic success, with jobs-creating businesses building up from what’s created. "Right now, that economic success story is being threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic." Please view and share this brief but important video, which urges action from Congress, on your own social media platforms and keep the dialogue going toward relief measures. This video, as well as other action on the federal revenue replacement front that you can read about below, is a part of the League’s continuing campaign to garner support for congressional action to address revenue shortfalls and other municipal needs created by the pandemic. 

Municipal governments in North Carolina are in urgent need of direct, federal assistance to protect local economies and jobs from the effects of the covid-19 pandemic. Without assistance to fill massive and unforeseen revenue losses, economic recovery will be even slower, many local government jobs and services will be lost, utility systems will be at risk, and capital projects benefiting the business community will be stalled.

The projections in this memo ​prepared by League staff have been developed through a variety of sources, including data from the State of North Carolina, self-reported data from municipalities, national economic forecasts, and industry group information. Conservative estimates have been used throughout. These estimates only cover the remainder of the calendar year. Following the recession of 2008, it took nearly six years for sales tax revenues to return to pre-recession levels. If N.C. returns to stricter stay-at-home orders, or the economic effects of the pandemic worsen or linger into 2021, municipalities will need more money to offset accompanying revenue losses.​


Oxford Mayor Jackie Sergent is featured this week as a guest opinion columnist on WRAL TechWire writing on the importance of a supported local business scene as COVID-19 decimates activity. “Small business owners and their workers have taken the brunt of the economic hit so far, and locally elected officials know that the financial health of those businesses is vital to the future of our communities across the state,” Sergent writes, adding that “the broader economic effects are hitting local government too. When economic activity suffers, so do the tax revenues that cities, towns, and counties depend on to deliver services to their residents. In addition to tax revenue, unemployed residents cannot pay fees that help fund operations across local government.” That’s a serious, immediate issue, she notes. Additionally for Oxford, and for many other cities and towns, the water and sewer department is seeing a rising delinquency rate. Read Sergent’s thoughts​ on the situation and her call to action of working together for the best possible outcomes.


The Washington Post this week published a story with landing points across the U.S. on what’s at stake for local governments in need of clear, direct aid as the coronavirus defuels the sources of support for vital, everyday, locally administered services in our communities. “City and state leaders have pointed to shuttered storefronts, sharp declines in shopping and tourism, and steep drop-offs in tax revenue that have come as a result of their efforts to arrest the spread of the coronavirus,” the article states before looking at the ground situation in North Carolina. The Post notes that the existing allotment filtered through the state for cities and towns hasn’t adequately moved the needle. Greensboro Mayor and N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition Chair Nancy Vaughan told the post her city is “incurring significant expenses” without a clear picture of help to come. Read the full piece for a dissection of efforts in Congress to that end, and please take the time to communicate the need with your congressional delegates. 

As many areas of North Carolina continue to struggle with Internet access issues made more critical by the COVID-19 pandemic, Charter Communications has been reaching out to municipalities in some parts of the country seeking their help in gaining relief from conditions that were a part of the Federal Communications Commission approval of Charter’s merger with Time Warner Cable. In communication with Maine municipalities, the telecommunications giant is asking that letters of support be sent to the FCC so that provisions related to data caps and charges to streaming services can expire early. These requests come as Charter has continued to oppose passage of legislation in North Carolina that would better enable municipalities to enter into public-private partnerships with internet service providers to improve internet access. Lobbyists for Time Warner Cable also wrote key provisions of the 2011 Level the Playing Field Act that severely restricted municipalities in their efforts to provide better broadband in their communities. Meanwhile, earlier this month, telecommunications industry lobbyist Marcus Trathen sent a letter of objection to the Local Government Commission as the Town of Wake Forest sought approval of debt to construct a fiber network for town uses. Please keep the League informed should you receive communication from Charter seeking their assistance with their FCC request. 

Also, earlier this week, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Community Broadband Networks, which has worked closely with the League on issues of broadband access, released this video emphasizing the critical need for local control when it comes to broadband access and networks. Feel free to share the video on your social media platforms.