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Commentary: Congress: Americans need you to help their communities

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A woman takes a snapshot of a boarded up business on King Street in Charleston. Lauren Petracca/Staff

Many people have been sheltering in their homes since early March. Many have lost their jobs and had their lives turned upside down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. And we all depend on our elected leaders to provide a viable, safe pathway through this global health crisis.

Throughout this crisis, in South Carolina, our local elected leaders have been the tip of the spear in addressing the challenges we have faced by making tough calls. Those tough calls have come in the form of shutting down their cities with stay-at-home orders, passing ordinances to require masks be worn, and helping their communities get the personal protective equipment and testing they desperately need. Now, as Congress contemplates this fourth COVID-19 aid package, we need our federal representatives to support these local leaders so our communities can continue to render the service and leadership we are desperate for.

According to the National League of Cities, cities are projected to face a collective $360 billion revenue loss over the next three years. In addition to the key role these governments have played during this crisis, they are responsible for the vital services we depend on each day. More than one-third of the nation’s 3 million city employees might be subject to furloughs, layoffs and pay cuts. We depend on them to pick up our trash and to make sure our water continues to run. Without direct support from Congress, our communities’ ability to provide the basic, fundamental services we depend on every day will cease.

There has been much discussion regarding how this pandemic has highlighted the inequities that exist in our country. While this has presented itself in various ways, health care and access to broadband are two of the most prominent. Without direct funding from Congress, our communities will be even further away from being able to address these inequities. As we discuss our children going back to school safely, a key component of those plans relies on families being able to have access to the internet. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 30% of South Carolinians do not have internet service in their home. This pandemic has highlighted the need for resources to address these growing challenges.

We recently surpassed 4 million COVID-19 cases in the United States, and we have lost at least 148,000 precious lives. As this aid package is refined in Congress, Americans desperately need it to fund our communities so that we can adequately deal with this pandemic, take care of our citizens and address these inequities.

Sam Johnson is an advisor with Nexsen Pruet and NP Strategy. Steve Benjamin is the mayor of Columbia and past president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy and a CBS News political contributor. John Tecklenburg is the mayor of Charleston.

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