ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — Layoffs could be coming for those who work for the city of Asheville. Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer said that during a conference call with five other North Carolina mayors on Tuesday.
The mayors of High Point, Salisbury, Asheville, Kinston and Lexington said they need federal help in order to avoid making drastic cuts because of financial losses caused by the coronavirus.
They’re calling on U.S. lawmakers to pass a $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus package with direct payments to cities.
Manheimer explained where the city will be if it doesn't get federal aid.
“What we’ll have to do is we will have to continue with hiring freezes, we will have to look at layoffs,” Manheimer said. “Here in Asheville, for the fiscal year that just ended, for example, we were hit very hard by the pandemic."
The other mayors on the call echoed concerns about being able to provide public services without any money coming in.
“I’m also concerned about how we‘ll reopen schools without additional funding to make those safe for our children,” Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander said.
The mayors said some of their cities don’t have savings to fall back on.
“It’s going to be devastating to some of those towns that are really, really small,” Kinston Mayor Don Hardy said.
Manheimer said losses in revenue from things like parking, transit and sales taxes caused a $5 million shortfall for the fiscal year that just ended.
She said the city is projecting another $3 million loss in the fiscal year that just started.
She said the city is having to dip into savings, something it has not had to do since the Great Recession.
“But that was a more gradual experience for the city. It was devastating, but it was more gradual. This is like falling off a cliff or slamming on the breaks,” Manheimer said.
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The head of the Triad Food and Beverage Coalition said during the conference call that between February and June 39,500 public sector workers were laid off in North Carolina.
Manheimer said with the ongoing pandemic the city can’t afford to make cuts to public service
“This week the Senate is back in Washington, and I would urge them to make this issue priority No. 1,” Manheimer said.
Manheimer said Asheville was shut out of the last round of federal money because the city didn’t meet the 500,000 population requirement.
She said the city did get some federal money that was dispersed by Buncombe County.