Local cities left out when it comes to federal coronavirus aid

Right now whether or not a city can ask the feds for money is not based on how hard it was hit by the coronavirus. Instead, it is based on the size of the city and if you have less than 500,000 residents, you can’t ask at all.

Life Care Center of Kirkland was the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. One-third of the patients died.

Kirkland City manager Kurt Triplett says the response and loss of revenue from the economic slowdown already cost the city $700,000.

He says at one point they had 32 firefighters, one-third of the department, quarantined. Triplett expects the pandemic to keep costing the city about $600,000 a month

But right now, the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Relief Fund allows cities of 500,000 residents or more to apply for federal funds, smaller cities will have to see what trickles down from money given to the state.

“When you look at what happened in Kirkland the size of our city was irrelevant. We had the most cases and the most number of deaths in the entire nation,” said Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett.

Triplett doesn’t think the size of the city should be a deciding factor when it comes to federal funds.

“That’s why we’ve been advocating in the next stimulus iteration-you need to help small cities. If you want to solve the problem you need us to be able to make sure people are safe,” explained Triplett.

Kirkland has 90,000 residents and the City of Redmond has 65,000.

Redmond city leaders say the city spent $1.5 million from March 2 to April 5 fighting coronavirus.

Malisa Files, the finance director for the City of Redmond, says that figure includes about $285,000 that should be reimbursed by FEMA. That money was spent on first responders, personal protective equipment (PPE) and overtime.

“Those not reimbursable costs include time for the mayor, time for the directors to manage this event. The time that our folks that are in our emergency center, the time spent to manage and keep the community running,” said Malisa Files, finance director, City of Redmond.

“We hope the state money will come through. We know the state is looking at a fair and equitable way to push that money down to the other localities. We just don’t know what that is yet,” says Files.

Triplett says discussions are happening in Washington, D.C., right now, with Washington political leaders pushing to get federal funds for smaller cities. Kirkland and Redmond hope it comes through soon.

“If a city can’t stop it, no matter its size, COVID will spread,” says Triplett.

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