The largest stimulus in U.S. history has money for the unemployed, small businesses, corporate behemoths and scores of other parts of the economy threatened with decimation by coronavirus.
But for cities with less than 500,000 people, there isn’t a dime in direct aid.
Individuals who live in the region will still get their federal unemployment and stimulus checks, small business aid and other measures taken to keep the economy afloat during the crisis.
But it’s the lack of federal money into city coffers that doesn’t sit well with the mayors of Tampa Bay’s two largest cities. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman have both criticized the absence of aid to large cities like theirs that don’t quite make the threshold. Tampa has nearly 400,000 residents while St. Petersburg has more than 265,000.
“It leaves all but 33 cities in the U.S. dependent on their counties for funding. My opinion is they should either lower that threshold to at least something reasonable like 250,000 or require that the counties and states distribute it equitably,” Castor told the Tampa Bay Times Tuesday.
Kriseman’s office suggested that threshold be lowered to 50,000, a position advocated, they say, by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. That level would funnel direct aid to Clearwater, pop. 116,478.
In Florida, only Jacksonville, which has combined its city and county governments, is eligible under the legislation signed by President Donald Trump on March 27. Even the city of Miami does not make the cut.
On Monday, during a Facebook Live appearance, Kriseman also criticized the lack of aid and signaled a possible second round of stimulus should take medium-sized cities into account.
“We’d like to see further relief down the line including direct aid to cities,” Kriseman said.
Having only Jacksonville qualify in Florida doesn’t make sense, said Kriseman, who leads the state’s fifth-largest city.
“We think that’s wrong, so we’re hoping that if there’s another stimulus put out by the federal government, that they’ll include smaller cities or medium-size cities like us here in St. Pete.”
Castor says it would be welcome relief for the state’s third-largest city. On Tuesday, the mayor’s chief financial officer told City Council members that “nothing is off the table” concerning possible city budget adjustments due to the outbreak.
Castor said the city is still modeling the fiscal damage, but there’s little doubt of its severity.
“By all accounts, it’s going to be significant," she said. "Any relief that we could have would certainly be welcome.”
Aside from the stimulus legislation, Castor said she’s been puzzled by how the federal government is distributing emergency grants. Tampa received $1.3 million recently, which the city used to fund its emergency homeless shelter. Meanwhile, Flint, Mich., a city about a quarter of Tampa’s size, received $2.4 million, she said.
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