5 Pennsylvania Mayors: Our cities want America’s bailout, and we will not wait

This is from the mayors of five cities in Pennsylvania: Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti, Mayor of Philadelphia Jim Kenney, Mayor of Pittsburgh William Peduto, Williamsport Mayor Derek Slaughter and Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace.

As mayors of cities in Pennsylvania, we are witnessing the human toll the pandemic takes every day. We see families losing loved ones, unemployed workers struggling to make ends meet, children stuck at home and isolated, and businesses closing their doors for good. In our Commonwealth, people continue to suffer.

We see this pain every day. We see it in the family waiting in the snow for their weekly box of food, the elementary school student who hasn’t signed up for online learning in weeks, and the small business owner who laid off his last two employees for good after the fight stay open for months.

It is time for our convention leaders to step up.

It has been more than a year since the first cases of Covid-19 were discovered in America, and the anniversary of the first cases in Pennsylvania is approaching. During this time, the relief that Pennsylvania and our cities received from the federal government was crucial. Unfortunately, much more resources are needed for American communities to recover and thrive.

Every one of our cities was forced to make difficult budget cuts after Covid-19, and without additional federal aid, our residents will continue to suffer. Congress has the opportunity to make it big with its next rescue package and provide the support the American people need. Experts agree that the danger is not great enough right now – a lesson we learned during the Great Recession.

President Biden’s American rescue plan contains a vision for dealing with the ongoing emergency, and it is just the kind of comprehensive, bold plan Pennsylvania needs. The American public is very supportive of the American rescue plan. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that nearly 7 in 10 Americans are in favor of passing the president’s bailout plan, including 68 percent of independents. They know what we know – that Congress has to “make it big” to give our communities the help we urgently need.

Perhaps more important than anything right now, the American rescue plan would help us vaccinate more people faster. Expanded and coordinated vaccination efforts are essential to find a way out of the pandemic nightmare. By prioritizing the health of our most vulnerable residents and restoring a sense of security and trust in the public, we can reopen our schools and begin rebuilding our local economies faster and safer.

The plan will also help working families who continue to struggle by providing direct payments and improved unemployment benefits, rent support and an extended eviction moratorium, and food aid. It also supports the small businesses in our communities. These programs will help our neighbors have a roof over their heads and food on their tables.

A critical element of President Biden’s plan is direct assistance to state and local governments of all sizes. Local government revenues have plummeted and we see little, if any, signs of an improvement in our finances in 2021. Essential services like public health, public safety and sanitation are at risk. We cannot allow partisan policies to make us forget what we learned from the last recession: cities are economic engines for their regions, and if enough is not spent on federal incentives, local cuts will set the pace The economic recovery will slow down in the long run.

Members of Congress must act, and they must act soon. Our churches cannot wait another day. We waited months between the first aid package in March 2020 and the second in December, and millions of Americans have suffered. Congress alone has the power to alleviate the pain many Americans are experiencing, and they should wield it immediately.

We encourage all Pennsylvanians to reach out to their congressional officials and let them know that the message from Pennsylvania is clear: we need our federal officials to support the swift adoption of the American rescue plan so that we can fight back the virus and seek a speedy and full recovery can. It just can’t wait.

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