Last week 163 Florida mayors, through the Florida League of Mayors, asked Congress for emergency help addressing the pandemic and the recession. In the letter dated July 30, 2020, the mayors said, “Absent direct federal assistance, we will be forced to cut our workforce, exacerbating the economic and public health crisis we face…many local business owners are still struggling to stay open and to keep their dreams alive.”
The Senate HEALS Act would not provide any additional federal or state relief but would instead make it easier to spend the $150 billion that was provided in the CARES Act (COVID-19 bill number 3), but the letter makes clear the funds are not getting to the cities. A recent Washington Post article, Fast-dwindling Federal Aid Pits Florida Governments Against Each Other, outlines just how bad off Florida is and why the $150 billion may not be enough. Florida joined California as the second state to exceed 500,000 in COVID-19 infections, which places it ahead of Spain, Mexico, France, and Italy.
According to the mayors, Florida received $8.3 billion out of the $150 billion, which was designated to be used by states to address COVID-19 related costs. Senate Republicans say the new flexibility would allow states to spend funds to plug broader budget gaps, COVID-19 or not. According to the Washington Post article, “the money has caused conflicts among cash-starved governments.” In June, Governor Ron DeSantis cut $1 billion from the state’s proposed budget, and according to Moody Analytics, the state faces a $16 billion budget deficit over the next three years, but that figure jumps to $24 billion when local government shortfalls are included. While some in Washington have argued against state relief because they say state and local governments have overspent, the Mayor of Miami said that before the virus, the city had a $20 million surplus. Now they are projecting a $25 million deficit.