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Mayor Whaley Joins Chorus Of Small City Leaders Demanding Emergency Coronavirus Aid

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley speaking to reporters near the site of the shooting rampage.
Jess Mador

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley is calling for more federal aid to help the nation's smaller cities weather the coronavirus crisis.  Whaley is among a group of United States mayors who represent cities with fewer than half a million residents, who say the financial impacts of the pandemic could lead to widespread service reductions down the road.

A recent national survey by the United States Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities found nearly 9 in 10 cities expect to see budget shortfalls this year as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

The financial impacts of Dayton’s coronavirus emergency are already being felt. Over the last few weeks the city has furloughed roughly 480 workers. And with non-essential businesses shut down for weeks, Whaley, U.S. Conference of Mayors Second Vice President, says without emergency federal aid, Dayton's economy would take longer to rebound from the coronavirus.

The pain is mounting, she says.

“Because Ohio cities are reliant on the income tax. And when people aren't working, then obviously there is less money coming in to the city," she says. "And the work that is needed is the frontline work of trash and police and fire services that people are relying on while they're staying at home through COVID."

And, the Dayton region and many other struggling Ohio cities have not yet recovered all of the income and job losses shed during the last decade's Great Recession.

"It's going to affect communities like Dayton more directly because of that," Whaley says, "and we were very close to getting there this year. But this will be an economic problem that will probably closer to the Great Depression-era level of numbers, and we will not be able to get through it without federal help."

Without targeted federal assistance directly to cities, she says it would take even longer for local governments to restart their economies as social distancing-orders ease.

Whaley and dozens of other small-city mayors want $250 billion in direct aid, funding not included in existing coronavirus relief packages.

The survey's findings include:

88 percent of cities expect a revenue shortfall this year as a result of COVID-19.

For cities with populations of 50,000 to 500,000, 98 percent expect a shortfall.

For that same population set, 55 percent reported they expect that furloughing employees will be necessary.

38 percent of these cities say they expect to lay off workers.

52 percent of all cities responding say budget cuts will impact police and public safety.

Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding America initiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.