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St. Paul Mayor on stimulus delay: ‘It’s irresponsible for the president to say he’s not even interested in providing help’

Mayor Melvin Carter of Saint Paul, Minnesota joins Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman to break down the latest on coronavirus relief in his city, as President Trump pauses stimulus negotiations.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Over to what the fallout was in the breakdown in talks between Republicans and Democrats. Of course, at the center of the reasoning in terms of why President Trump wanted to pull out of those did boil down to something we've heard him say repeatedly when it comes to bailing out Democratic led states in cities.

That has been his claim, but of course, when we talk about some of the aid being pulled out here to America's public sector when we think about how many jobs, millions cut due to falling tax revenues across the country, a lot of local officials are now having to grapple with that, making some tough decisions in terms of budget cuts. And here to talk about that in more detail with us is the mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota. Mayor Melvin Carter joins us once again.

And Mayor Carter, it's good to see you again here. I mean, when we talk about it, that seems to be the big sticking point. That was always the big sticking point, is how much money was going to go to states and local communities here to kind of support the recovery.

But now that that's not there and we hear President Trump talking about piecemeal deals, where does that leave you as a local official trying to handle all this on your own?

MELVIN CARTER: Thanks for having me on again. Sorry I'm on without my seven-month-old here this time, but I'll try to make do without him. You know, listen, we're in a budget crisis. We've already cut over $20 million from this year's budget, municipal budget, in the middle of the year. We've already cut about another $20 million on top of that for next year.

And, you know, that's not just, like, trouble with the municipal spreadsheet. That's fewer police officers. That's fewer, you know, rec leaders. That's fewer people to help licensed businesses who are trying to rebuild, fewer people to support our communities.

And meanwhile, those people are more in need of more reliance on public services than ever before, as we've seen right here in St. Paul, over 80,000 unemployment claims in the last few months, as we see our unsheltered homeless population literally 13 times larger than it was just this time last year.

We need to be able to help people right now. And it's irresponsible for the president to say he's not even interested in providing help. Again, not just to our municipal budget spreadsheets, but to the people who rely on public services on the street level, not just in St. Paul, but all around this country.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and that's a concern that we've heard from a lot of economists on this show when we think about if you're boosting aid at a federal level, which we had seen in the Cares Act. A lot of that, though, now kind of coming off or expiring.

But also having states pull back because of these revenue shortfalls, it's essentially incentives or boosts moving in the opposite direction here. It's something we saw play out back in '08 and '09, which weighed down on the recovery.

But I guess that is one of the questions in terms of where we're at now since we have seen incomes fall the last month, the biggest decline we've saw since those unemployment benefits rolled off. So I mean, how does it look in terms of you dealing with this in St. Paul and what you've seen so far from those Americans that are hurting?

MELVIN CARTER: You know, we're working with our community as closely as we can in tracking what those pain points are. We're fortunate that the state of Minnesota, that our governor Tim Waltz, was able to point some of the CARES dollars that went to the state to the city. So that's helped us kind of tide over a little bit.

Those funds for us expire November 15. So the unsheltered homeless individuals who are experiencing homelessness who we're supporting, we're trying to figure out how to support them beyond then.

The businesses that we're working to support, we're trying to figure out how to support them beyond then. So nothing but question marks, and the longer Washington, DC stalls and plays political games with an election coming up, the more our residents, our workers, our community members, our business, our businesses, our families, our children suffer.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and when we talk about this, I mean, I guess it's important to back up because I got a lot of-- we had a lot of people talking about the coverage and kind of the idea of Republican versus Democratic cities or states and Trump's claim that that's what this would be in bailout money for Democrats.

I mean, I don't know necessarily if that's something that a lot of people would agree upon when we think about breaking things down that way. Because to your point, we're talking about public services that would get cut, Americans losing their jobs simply because a mayor or someone, an elected official, is with one party or the other.

So talk to me about maybe that stance since you've been in politics for a while. I mean, talk to me about what that might mean when we think about this conceptual idea of Republican and Democratic cities getting federal money here.

MELVIN CARTER: You know, it's a false statement. It's a false dichotomy. Most Americans don't even think about Republican or Democrat on a day-to-day basis, especially not right now in the midst of a crisis. They're thinking about how to feed their children. They're thinking about how to open up their business. They're thinking about how to make payroll.

So when the president says essentially that he's not the president, he's not responsible for communities that have Democrats in them, that he's only responsible for serving the communities with Republicans in them, I think it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Constitution says, of what the job of the president is.

And he's just making it clearer and clearer every single day that playing to his base and playing political games with an election coming up is more important to him than the well-being of the country and the people that are in it. I think that's going to be proved more and more unacceptable as we move forward. But I guess I can see why he would want to point the attention away from his record any chance he gets.