Mayor Broome appeals to Trump for federal aid

Baton Rouge City Hall (File photo)

Just a day after city officials said they expect to be able to cover revenue losses with reserve funds and federal reimbursements, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome has appealed to the president for relief. 

Broome sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Tuesday, asking for him to increase domestic production of medical supplies and equipment, and to allocate more HUD money to state and local governments for emergency shelters. 

“Local government budgets were not designed for a pandemic like this. We need the full weight of every federal department to support us through this crisis,” Broome says in the letter. “This global pandemic has overwhelmed even the most meticulous and proactive planning we have implemented.”

The letter strikes a stronger tone than that conveyed Monday by city officials, who noted they expected federal reimbursement to shore up the budget. 

“We do have a reserve fund for situations like this,” Darryl Gissel, chief administrative officer for the city, said on Monday.

City spokesman Mark Armstrong says that while the city-parish budget is generally strong, “at the same time, the bottom line is yes, we need federal assistance.

“We’re not saying we predict doom and gloom,” he says.  

While it’s still unclear just how much revenue will drop, about 60% of the city-parish’s $191.9 million general fund is fueled by sales tax collections. 

“Financial support to local governments in the form of Disaster Loans will be critical as we continue moving forward in this fight and in our regular course of business for our communities,” Broome says in the letter. 

Her appeal for increased production of personal protective equipment falls in line with other calls from the state, warning of rapidly depleting supplies as the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reached nearly 300 on Tuesday. 

“I am concerned we are very shortly facing a crisis in this situation,” Broome says. 

In a similar letter sent to Trump on Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state could be just 11 days away from being overwhelmed by the number of serious cases. 

Late Tuesday night, Trump approved a major disaster declaration for Louisiana, opening state and local governments up to funding for emergency protective measures including federal reimbursements up to 75% and crisis counseling.  

Louisiana is the fourth state to receive that designation, following California, New York and Washington. 

State officials have said more than $70 million has already been spent on coronavirus response. A figure for Baton Rouge spending was not immediately available. 

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