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Louisiana mayors express urgent need for federal aid

MONROE, La. (KNOE) – Municipalities around the state continue to feel the pressures from COVID-19.

In a virtual conference hosted by the Louisiana Municipal Association Wednesday, a handful of mayors shared unique challenges their town or city is facing due to the pandemic.

Over in Ruston, it’s been a tough year and a half.

“With this pandemic it really put us in a very had spot,” said Mayor Ronny Walker.

Walker says the city was still dealing with the effects of the April 2019 tornadoes when the pandemic hit.

The two events forced to city to make some hard decisions such as cutting part-time workers, furloughing employees, and taking pay cuts.

The city is still waiting to get back close to $3 million dollars from FEMA to replenish their reserves. So far, they’ve only received $87,000.

“That was really tough. One of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do was not only to cut these employees but lay off some and furlough others. It’s one thing when you cut them and you know their names and families, but then you see them in the grocery store a week later and see how deep a cut that was,” said Walker.

Walker added that tax revenue is down significantly.

He says that’s mostly due to job losses and the drop in the student population. Between Louisiana Tech and Grambling State, both universities expect a loss of 3 to 4,000 students. That means fewer people are renting apartments and less people are spending money at restaurants.

So, what would Walker and other leaders like to see done?

“We believe that moving forward if we could just get the same protections small businesses had such as the Payroll Protection Plan that could really help us out. And I really encourage congress to look at this. This could really be a game changer not just for our city, but for all cities,” said Walker.

A plan he believes will stimulate the economy and give cities like Ruston the proper footing to bounce back.

“Please understand that none of our small businesses can open back up unless the cities provide the necessary essential services. We really need some help from my opinion, the Payroll Protection Program, which would be the ideal way to help every city,” said Walker.

Walker says they will not raise taxes or cut services.

He hopes lawmakers will take these suggestions and come up with a plan that can satisfy both sides.

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