Maine, union officials issue warning on failure to pass federal COVID-19 aid package – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel

On Monday, Augusta City Manager William Bridgeo was clear about the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic on cities and towns across the state.

“I’ve been a city manager for just about 40 years now, and 22 here in Augusta,” Bridgeo said. “This is the most intense and biggest crisis that I and my municipal colleagues have dealt with in that entire period of time.”

City Manager William Bridgeo speaks in January during an Augusta City Council goal-setting event at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

Bridgeo made his comments during a conference call along with U.S. Sen. Angus King and Gov. Janet Mills, organized by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, urging action on the next phase of federal coronavirus stimulus funding.

Four months after the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1 trillion aid bill, the U.S. Senate has so far failed to take action on it or gather enough support to pass its own stimulus proposal, which lacked aid for state and municipal governments that have tallied billions of dollars in revenue losses since the global coronavirus was declared in March.

“There’s still time for the Senate to reach an agreement with the House, and provide states and cities and towns with meaningful assistance,” Mark Bernard, executive director of AFSCME Council 93, said.

AFSCME represents 2,700 public sector workers in Maine.

“AFSCME is here today to not only to highlight the dire consequences of failing to provide substantial, robust relief to states and municipalities,” Bernard said, “but also respectfully to urge Maine’s Republican Sen. (Susan) Collins to make a stronger effort to secure federal aid for Maine.”

While Collins has indicated support for such aid through both public statements and legislation, Bernard said his organization is asking her to exert strong public pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to deliver the aid.

Bridgeo said when Augusta city officials realized last spring that revenues would drop, they had to take steps to ensure the city’s budget remained balanced, including laying off a little more than 10% of the city’s workforce. Like state governments, municipalities cannot spend more than they take in.

“We’ve got about 240 full-time employees at any given time, and we eliminated 32 positions,” Bridgeo said. “In a small operation like ours, I personally felt the obligation to meet with every employee that was laid off and explained to that person why we had to do what we had to do. I can tell you, that’s an excruciating and painful process.”

This story will be updated.

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Author: The Covid-19 Channel