Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

League Bulletin

August 14, 2020

WHAT HAPPENED: Congress broke for the month. 

WHAT IT MEANS: It might not seem like major downtime to outsiders -- a few weeks -- but municipal officials know what we and our national counterparts have been pushing for: immediate, direct financial relief for municipal governments, hurt by negative revenue impacts under the coronavirus shutdowns, so they can keep up with the everyday needs of their residents and businesses and continue to drive the economy. Discussions among federal decisionmakers haven’t signified being close to a deal on a relief package. 

ON TAP: Senators are expected back right after Labor Day. 

THE SKINNY: The case for direct funding to cities and towns has swept through the newspapers and among business groups. Now, a new National League of Cities report presents data showing how cities and towns are on the brink, and how that’s bad for the entire country. 

It’ll likely be Sept. 8 before Congress turns the key on a COVID-19 relief package. The U.S. Senate closed out its session on Thursday and left town on plans to return at that date, and did so without a deal in place for the next coronavirus relief package, which we’ve urged to include direct relief for cities and towns so hamstrung by the effects of the shutdowns. The lack of a deal isn’t specifically over local funding; points like unemployment benefits and business aid are in controversy. But for the National League of Cities (NLC), the timing of the Senate’s leave was notable -- it coincided with the release of a new report that shows municipalities on the ropes. 

NLC has released its annual City Fiscal Conditions report for 35 years now, and the newest one “reveals that America’s cities are experiencing the fiscal consequences of this pandemic-downturn at an unprecedented speed -- and like recent recessions, it will take years for municipal budgets to recover from the impact of COVID-19,” the organization said. It surveyed 485 different municipalities across the country for the report, which concludes direct funding is “critical to the financial health of our nation.” 

The National Governors Association joined NLC and other local and state government groups this week in addressing the pressing need. “Top economists including Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, former Chairman Ben Bernanke and the leading ratings agencies agree that helping states, territories, counties, cities and towns will blunt the worst effects of the recession and help build a stronger recovery,” the associations said in a press release “There is wide bipartisan agreement that state and local governments came into this recession with unprecedented rainy-day reserves to help deal with the next downturn. No one could have anticipated a once-in-a-century pandemic combined with the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, but with lives and livelihoods on the line, state and local governments are stepping up and answering the call.” The Wall Street Journal has more coverage

The low response rate to the 2020 Census in North Carolina has new need for attention with the Census Bureau’s announcement that it will shorten the Census timeline and end operations early. Please do all that you can to encourage census responses in your community; non-responses will cost our communities billions of dollars in federal funds. 

The following is from Carolina Demography:

"As of July 31, approximately 4 million North Carolinians still need to respond to the census or North Carolina risks losing out on an estimated $7.4 billion in funding each year. N.C.’s current Census 2020 response rate is below the national rate and below where our state was in 2010. North Carolina communities that have not responded at high rates are predominantly rural, Black, and Brown, with low internet access."

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore this week named members to the new House Select Committee on Community Relations, Law Enforcement, and Justice, and has included municipal government representation. The committee, whose members are House lawmakers or appointed from the public, will look at the state’s criminal justice systems in the process of proposing methods to improve police training and relations with their communities.

Speaker Moore noted that the committee will review accomplishments so far with the Second Chance Act and Raise the Age law. Said Speaker Moore, “We have a unique opportunity through our strong public membership represented on this committee to continue making real progress for North Carolinians on issues that affect our nation. This bipartisan committee includes diverse perspectives to confront tough questions and identify policy reforms that help overcome discrimination, excessive force, and corruption in the criminal justice system to improve public safety for all North Carolinians.”

Joining the committee by Speaker Moore’s appointment are Nicole Stewart of the Raleigh City Council and NCLM Board of Directors along with Tariq Bokhari of the Charlotte City Council. The full committee roster is available in a press release

Asheboro, Dunn and Henderson are the newest of the North Carolina Main Street Communities, recognizing hard work on downtown development and rejuvenation. “We congratulate Asheboro, Dunn and Henderson on joining the ranks of our state’s Main Street Communities,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland. “This designation is a testament to the hard work of community leaders in Asheboro, Dunn and Henderson. They have fully committed to improving the economic well-being of their towns through the North Carolina Main Street program, and their work serves to inspire other communities considering downtown revitalization.” A news release has more. 

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has announced a “new, expedited” reimbursement program toward expanded non-congregate sheltering in COVID-19 times. 

“To slow the spread of this virus, individuals with COVID-19 need to isolate and avoid close contact with others — but in many circumstances that can be a challenge,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen in a news release with details. “North Carolinians need access to non-congregate sheltering — like hotels or dormitories — so they can isolate safely and protect their loved ones. This expedited funding will help communities create options for North Carolinians who need a safe place to isolate and recover due to COVID-19.”

The news release explained the funding allows local jurisdictions, agencies and community organizations to receive expedited reimbursements for all eligible costs.