Without stimulus, Kansas City will face “severe” budget cuts and layoffs as the coronavirus pandemic has drained its coffers, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas told Yahoo Finance.
“I kind of grew up broke. And sometimes when you don't have enough money going in, you're making a choice. Making a choice between what you're looking to buy for food or what bill you're looking to pay or to not pay — that's where we are going to have to be,” Lucas said regarding the city’s dire situation.
Stimulus negotiations are ongoing as lawmakers work to settle differences that remain on the $908 billion bipartisan package. One of the sticking points that remain is Democratic demands for economic aid for states and local governments.
“I hear from a lot of my right wing lawmakers that say that blue lives matter and all that sort of stuff. Well, the fact that they're not passing a stimulus means that a lot of those blue lives may be unemployed,” Lucas said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has offered Democrats concessions in exchange for dropping demands for billions in aid for local municipalities.
Stimulus is necessary to keep public sector employment afloat, Lucas said, adding that in Kansas City budget gaps totaled “about $80 million. That is money that may be cut out of front line workers — out of first responders. That's why it is so important for us to look to a real stimulus, too.”
“In every American city, every American state, we have seen an incredible decrease in sales tax receipts, certainly hotel, motel taxes, restaurants, et cetera,” he said, adding that unlike the federal government, state and local governments have to balance their budgets. Lucas does not know how many cuts the city will have to make and hopes that he won’t have to predict it because it won’t get to that point.
However, if a stimulus is not finalized “you're looking at real cuts to service delivery. You're looking at real cuts to what we can provide,” he said.
Vaccine distribution will also strain state and city budgets even further. Without a federal distribution plan, it is expected to fall on states and local governments to largely handle.
“I mean, if there is a travesty of the last eight months in our country is how much we've had to see a disparate number of folks — mayors, governors, and others — that have had to step up in areas where the federal government is not acting,” Lucas explained. “This is the same situation as we look to vaccine rollout.”
Kansas City will be prepared to handle vaccine distributions, he said, adding that “we would love to have exceeding clarity and what our vaccine plans may be for the federal government identifying the distribution centers, et cetera... Instead, the current administration has taken the approach, let the states do it.”
“In some situations, the states have said, let the cities figure it out,” he said. “We do have a positive relationship with our state. We hope that can work as efficiently as possible.”
But funding will be crucial and Lucas said Kansas City will “fill whatever gap we need to.”
Even if the city struggles financially, Lucas said Kansas City “will make sure the vaccine is available for people in my community.”
Kristin Myers is a reporter and anchor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.