We all hoped that this pandemic would be behind us by now. Yet around 1,000 new cases are being reported daily, and Wisconsin is being added to travel restriction lists around the country.
Until we can get this virus under control, getting our economy back on track will be impossible. Leaders in Washington need to act immediately to pass a relief package that invests in Wisconsin’s local communities to ensure we don’t go backward on the road to recovery.
Demand for public services continues to be as high as ever, despite decreasing tax revenues. Specifically, the city of Eau Claire has already estimated it will lose at least $650,000. This comes as part of an estimated $400 million in lost revenues for municipalities across the state, according to the League of Municipalities.
Now, more than ever, we need essential government services to keep people healthy and safe. We need EMTs and paramedics to continue serving on the front lines fighting this virus. We need our public works employees to continue managing our sewer systems and utilities. We need our teachers to educate our kids whether that be remote or in the classroom. These workers and the services they provide are essential and critical to our recovery as a state.
On May 15, two days after Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order was struck down, Congress passed the Heroes Act, which designated $1 trillion in federal aid to state and local governments impacted by COVID-19. Two months have passed, thousands more have died, millions more are sick and the Senate still hasn’t voted on this package. What’s worse, the current proposal being discussed in the Senate offers nothing for local governments.
Offering flexibility for funds already provided by the Coronavirus Relief Fund is important, but without additional federal aid, Wisconsinites will see devastating cuts to programs. One county treasurer shared with me concerns that property tax delinquencies could more than double. Another local official shared how they were grappling with laying off nurses who provide mental health and addiction services as they try to balance their budget.
Somehow, Congress has found the money to bail out airlines and Wall Street, yet we can’t find resources for our teachers and EMTs. Without federal aid for local governments, Wisconsin communities will be left holding the bag and Wisconsinites will be left with higher taxes and fewer services.
Whether it be in my role, providing financing through the State Trust Fund Loan Program or the $200 million in Routes to Recovery grants issued by the governor, the state is doing all it can. It’s now time for Congress to step up and invest in our communities. Without critical federal aid, our recovery will be longer, and come at the cost of the health and safety of Wisconsinites.
Godlewski is state treasurer for Wisconsin.