Happy Fourth of July – Observed today.

In 1776, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” was the focus of the Declaration of Independence. After 244 years, we expect our government to honor that “social contract” to give all of us the opportunity to achieve those goals.

During this pandemic, the Feds must also abide by the preamble to our U.S. Constitution, especially, “promote the general welfare” for all.

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has rejected the House’s Heroes Act for a trillion dollars in state and local aid to impact budget distresses, despite a 11.0 + % unemployment rate, with bipartisan support from governors, the Federal Reserve chair and the Treasury secretary. Tick tock.

The Heroes Act will provide “direct aid to Kentucky’s budget of $3.3 billion in federal fiscal year (FFY) 2020 and $4.1 billion in 2021 for a total of $7.4 billion,” according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. The state would also benefit from the reduction in the state’s share of Medicaid spending, saving an additional $1.7 billion.

Without federal aid, our governor and legislature will have to cut $450 million in “state services, including education, health care and public safety, with an additional $161 million cut proposed  for the Road fund.”(kypolicy.org) Tick tock.

Kentucky counties and cities need the Heroes Act to be passed ASAP by McConnell’s Senate. The only holdup is passage in the Senate. Tick tock.

The Heroes Act would provide Calloway County relief in 2020/2021: For Calloway County - Totals  =  $21,933,216; For the City of Murray - Totals = $9,552, 097. That would go a long way to make us whole. (kypolicy.org)

McConnell’s stalling and skimping makes NO economic sense. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities posts, “States and counties must balance their budgets every year. Without substantial federal help during this crisis, Kentucky could lose thousands of educators, health care workers, first responders, and the cancelation of many contracts with private sector companies.” Tick tock.

It is mind-boggling that the Republicans have yet to grab Moscow Mitch by the lapels and shake him to get going. Every week he waits, more layoffs follow, the recession worsens and the Republicans refuse to engage in debate about how best to provide relief to the typical resident. Tick tock.

Local governments need significant federal relief if they are to continue providing community services through the COVID-19 pandemic. Tick tock.

The Kentucky League of Cities conducted a survey of its members, with results suggesting cities will face a collective budget shortfall of $85 million in the current fiscal year that ended June 30, and $180 million in fiscal year 2021. Tick tock.

The limited federal assistance provided thus far is inadequate. The state of Kentucky will receive approximately $1.7 billion from the CARES Act, already signed into law, but the ONLY local government large enough to receive a direct payment in Kentucky is Louisville. Any additional relief to local governments must come from the $1.6 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund Kentucky received, and Governor Beshear announced in May that local governments will receive $300 million from that fund. But that amount is not enough, and those funds are restricted in use for pandemic-related expenses and CANNOT be used to address Kentucky’s budget shortfall. Tick tock.

Kentucky Budget director John Hicks warned “there is a lot of uncertainty about how much state revenue will fall in the coming months” due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown/slowdown of most businesses since March. Tick tock.

Hicks instructed all state agencies to submit plans that would cut their spending by 12.5 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year that ended June 30. Tick tock.

In short, The Heroes Act would extend unemployment insurance provisions, another round of individual stimulus payments, boost food and housing assistance, health care improvements to keep people insured, and improvements to essential worker pay and childcare. Tick tock.

It is the height of hypocrisy for McConnell’s Republican Senate to “cry” deficits. In 2017, the rich were given a huge, irresponsible tax cut, by the Feds (and Kentucky’s tax cut).

When Kentucky’s local governments are looking into the abyss, it’s PAST time to act, Mitch!

The Democratic House passed it May 15!

Tick tock.

Marshall Ward is a Murray resident who is a member of the Democratic Party. He may be reached at josephmarshallward@gmail.com.

Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of the Murray Ledger & Times.

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