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OpinionEditorial

Democrats, stand your ground

A view of the Capitol in Washington on

A view of the Capitol in Washington on April 13, 2020. Credit: SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Refusing to allocate federal relief funding to pay teachers and police officers and firefighters and paramedics can destroy a nation’s economy just as surely as letting cooks and bookkeepers and salespeople be put out of work.

It can also, at a time like this, destroy a nation’s soul.

But that’s exactly whose livelihoods and financial stability are threatened by a move in Congress to fund small businesses so they can keep paying employees while denying states, counties, cities and towns the money they must have to pay their public servants.

In New York, coffers are lacking $10 billion to $15 billion in needed revenue this year, as the pandemic has demanded massive spending to meet the voracious demands of mounting an effective response, while sales tax and income tax revenue have plummeted. In the state’s counties, towns and cities, the fiscal carnage is nearly as bad.

But in Congress, Republicans and Democrats are close to agreement on a $450 billion deal that includes $300 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program and its efforts to keep the nation’s small businesses afloat. The original $350 billion in funding for that program ran out in 13 days, and far too much of the money didn’t reach smaller operators, minority owners and business people who did not have strong relationships with the banks administering the program.

The $450 billion deal on the table also includes $50 billion for the Small Business Administration’s disaster relief fund, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion to fund much-needed testing.

These are crucial initiatives. But they are no more crucial than the operations of the governments fighting coronavirus on the frontlines. And it’s this that Republican leaders, who’ve made the stability of privately owned businesses large and small their priority, are irresponsibly refusing to do. Their vague promises of help later are not convincing.

If Republicans will not agree to make funding state and local governments crushed by the expenses and revenue slashes of the coronavirus as high a priority as funding the operations of the nation’s businesses, layoffs will be the certain result. The very people who have put this nation on their shoulders and carried it through an unthinkable health crisis could soon be unemployed.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday that no further funding from the federal government for the state would mean “cutting schools 20%, local governments 20% and hospitals 20%.” That’s not to mention county and city and village cops, firefighting and children’s programs, mental-health workers and every other variety of civil servant who go unsung until they disappear.

Too often, Democrats entrusted with fighting for New York and other blue states cave to the GOP’s demands because what the GOP prioritizes is, in fact, necessary, without holding out for its own equally necessary priorities. Democrats play nice, and lose to a Republican Party that plays, always, to win.

This is the time they have to play hardball for New York, when our backs are against the wall. This time, Democrats can’t afford to get played.

— The editorial board

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