ATLANTA – Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms asked Congress Friday for more aid to help local governments cope with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bottoms told members of the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis that Atlanta received $89 million in direct assistance through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Congress passed overwhelmingly in March, plus another $338.5 million that went to city-owned Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Still, Atlanta is facing a $35 million to $40 million budget shortfall because of the impact the business lockdown resulting from the pandemic has had on tax collections, Bottoms said.
“Cities can only do so much,” said Bottoms, part of a parade of U.S. mayors invited to testify at Friday’s subcommittee hearing. “We need additional assistance to bolster small businesses and people working paycheck to paycheck in jobs that have been endangered or put on hold.”
Bottoms and the other mayors endorsed the latest coronavirus relief bill before Congress, which includes $375 billion in direct aid to local governments. The Democratic-controlled House passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Solutions (HEROES) Act earlier this month, but it has gotten a cool reception from the U.S. Senate’s Republican majority.
Bottoms said Atlanta has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 because it’s the mostly densely populated city in Georgia and due to its large population of African-Americans, who data shows are being affected disproportionately by the virus.
She said another factor increasing Atlanta’s exposure to coronavirus is that Georgia was among the first states to begin reopening businesses closed because of the pandemic.
The city itself is pursuing a “thoughtful and strategic reopening that is driven by data” and based on the recommendations of a 60-member committee of business, academic, faith-based and philanthropic leaders, Bottoms said.
“We are encouraged by the progress we’re making,” the mayor said. “But we are not out of the woods yet.”