JACKSON: CARES ACT FUNDING SHOULD HELP PEOPLE, NOT PROP UP CITY’S BUDGET
While Congress is contemplating another round of COVID19 relief, Shreveport is poised to place $10 million CARES ACT funding in the City’s saving account better known to government experts as its reserves. This action comes at a time that citizens in Shreveport are being evicted at an alarming rate, businesses have closed their doors, workers are without gainful employment and many families wonder where their next check will come from. Yes, the city of Shreveport was also awarded millions more through HUD to provide back in April of this year for COVID-19 response but we know that is simply not enough to respond to the community need at this time.
This begs the question: Is this the real intent and purpose of the CARES ACT passed by Congress?
To be short and honest, the answer is NO! The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020, creating the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), a $150 billion emergency assistance fund for states, territories, tribes, and local governments to purchase protective equipment and improve efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus. Nothing in the language of the law encourages cities, states, or municipalities to store these dollars in their reserve accounts.
In recent events, the Caddo Parish Commission contemplated legislation to provide $500 to 500 families as a means to provide relief. As well intentioned as this effort may have been, the reality is the effort is too small and would cover too few when there are literally millions more is available to provide local relief right now.
Why not use the model of the City of Houston who has used their CARES ACT funding to provide $1,000 to eligible families? After all, these dollars are essentially federal block grant dollars specifically intended to help reduce the economic burden on families and entire communities. We could have followed the model of Atlanta, Ga. and provide small businesses with up to $10,000 grants who may need a lifeline during this time? Just think what it would mean to the entrepreneurs in across Caddo Parish having resources to pay staff, pay rent or otherwise survive while we in government impose regulations that may require them to shutter their operations.
I commend our United States Senator Bill Cassidy in his bipartisan work to provide additional emergency relief. However, I hope he and other congressional leadership along with President Trump and President-elect Biden will take a look at how some municipalities have chosen to bolster a city’s reserves, grant bonuses, and give raises while everyday citizens affected by the pandemic continue to struggle with making ends meet. We continue to hope that Congress will agree on additional aid, but it must be done to ensure that aid actually gets directly to citizens who desperately need it. I hate to rain on the victory parade boasting Shreveport’s largest budget surplus ($20 million) in 20 years, but redirecting $10 million in federal CARES Act money meant to provide immediate relief from the pandemic to the City’s saving account while citizens suffer is CARE-less and not much of an accomplishment at all.
Authors’ Note: This letter is only intended to raise concerns about how federal CARES ACT grant dollars are not being utilized to respond to current emergency needs of citizens. This is not a declaration or intent of anything beyond the stated purpose. A copy of this letter will appear in print of Sunday’s Shreveport Time and the next print addition of the Shreveport Sun.