ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
We begin this hour by taking note of some staggering numbers - 3.8 million. That's the number of new jobless claims filed last week.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Thirty-point-three million - that's the total number of Americans who've applied for unemployment in the six weeks since the coronavirus pandemic began destroying the U.S. job market.
SHAPIRO: All of those jobless claims represent people who used to work in restaurants, retail stores, businesses of all kinds; businesses that were, until recently, generating tax revenue for state and local governments. That revenue is used to pay for things like sanitation workers, first responders, librarians, health and safety workers.
KELLY: So cities across the country are beginning to have to make tough decisions because, quite simply, they are running out of money to pay those workers. Well, let's go now to one such city - Dayton, Ohio, where Nan Whaley is mayor. And Mayor Whaley joins me now.
NAN WHALEY: Great to be on.
KELLY: How bad have things gotten for your city in the last six weeks in terms of being able to pay your employees?
WHALEY: Well, immediately, when the governor put the stay-at-home order on, we furloughed around 470 employees, which is about a little over 25% of our overall employee number.
KELLY: What parts of your workforce are those furloughs affecting?
WHALEY: Well, it's every department, really, except for police and fire services. You know, the water department and public works are the lion's share of the departments, and so they saw the biggest numbers. But everything from parks and rec to the city commission office to the finance office. We did keep police and fire at full service because of the disaster that we're in right now.
KELLY: So paint me a picture of the effect of all of these people who are currently not working.
WHALEY: Well, it really - if it doesn't have to do with the COVID issue, it's not happening. You know, not much planning going on in the plan board. There's not children going or seniors going to the rec centers. We've furloughed any capitol improvements. All of that has been slowed, if not stopped.
KELLY: OK, so I know you were calling on the federal government for help. The federal government, we should note, has approved close to $3 trillion in coronavirus relief, but very little of that has made its way to state or local governments like yours.
WHALEY: (Laughter) Yeah.
KELLY: You're laughing. That's an understatement from where you sit?
WHALEY: Right. You know, there was some money in CARES III that went to cities over 500,000. That's a whole, like, 34 cities in the country. Most people live in cities like Dayton. And so we have not seen very much of that money, if any at all, here in Dayton.
KELLY: What is your response to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who argues the federal government shouldn't be responsible for bailing out local governments who have not budgeted accordingly?
WHALEY: Well, I think that's laughable. I don't think anybody was budgeting a pandemic last December. I think that Sen. McConnell needs to really get a reality check on what's going on on the ground here. These are cities that have had tough times, even past the Great Recession. And then to have a disaster where they have to provide frontline services - it's exactly what the federal government should do if they want the recovery to happen quickly.
KELLY: What happens if Dayton and other cities like yours don't get this money?
WHALEY: Right. I mean, I think what will happen - we will get through this. It will be very, very painful. We will see less police officers. We will see less firefighters. We will have to do services dramatically differently if we do some services at all. And I'm talking about the equity issues of helping kids in summer. And our city is a poor city. You will see cities like Dayton get to the very, very minimum. And then we will see where they actually cut to bone and aren't doing services that are needed for a prosperous economy.
KELLY: So a long road ahead, it sounds like. Mayor Whaley, thank you.
WHALEY: Hey. Thanks for calling. And thanks for talking to me today.
KELLY: Nan Whaley is the mayor of Dayton, Ohio. We've been talking to her about the financial challenges her city is facing because of the coronavirus epidemic.
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