People often talk about differences between the east and west sides of Washington state — our different needs, our different priorities. When it comes to the critical role cities play in the lives of their residents, there is common ground. As mayors of Kennewick and Shoreline, we are joining the chorus of cities and towns across America — large and small, urban and rural, conservative and liberal — calling for direct federal aid to local governments. Why? Because local governments are in the best position to help our residents and businesses recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two-thirds of the people in Washington live in cities. Cities like Kennewick and Shoreline provide services that are crucial to the daily lives of our residents. These essential services include public safety, fire response, emergency medical services, human services, ensuring we have safe drinking water, maintaining our transportation network and our parks, and providing sanitation and other utility services.

As families and businesses struggle with the economic impacts of the pandemic, the demand for city services has never been greater. Unfortunately, cities have also been hit with economic losses. We have seen a sharp decline in resources as we have taken the necessary steps to slow the spread of this disease.

In Shoreline, revenue from sales tax and other sources is down 16%, or more than $7 million dollars. In Kennewick, revenue from sales tax and other sources that fund our general governmental programs and services is down 14%, equating to a budgetary impact of $7.7 million dollars. We expect additional, significant declines in the coming months.

Even though we have less money, cities have to respond to people’s increased need for assistance with utility bills, housing, food and other basic needs. We have to help our businesses as they struggle to weather this severe economic storm. Our communities demand and deserve this help.

Unlike the federal government, cities are required to have balanced budgets. The result is an immediate need for funding to serve our communities. Absent federal relief, people will see decreased support for basic needs right when they need them most. 

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Simply put, relief for cities directly supports the quality of life of our residents. Without investment in local government, our communities will be less safe, less healthy and less prosperous.

While Congress has passed legislation to address the economic impacts to businesses, individuals and large government agencies, it has yet to provide any direct aid to most cities and towns. Today, we are joining the call from across our great nation, asking for $500 billion in direct federal aid and economic relief over the next two years. Local governments are on the front line of providing services to families across the country. Absent relief from the federal government, those essential services will be significantly impacted.

Congress must include funding for cities in the next COVID-19 legislation. The quality of life for our residents depends on it.