de blas

A PLEA TO WHITE HOUSE: Mayor de Blasio has been one of President Trump's most-vehement critics, but he appealed to him during his budget press conference to persuade Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to drop his opposition to a stimulus bill backed by Democratic congressional leaders that could give the city billions of dollars in Federal aid. Given the death toll and economic damage the city has suffered from the coronavirus, the Mayor said, 'Anyone with a heart' would give it special treatment.

Even after reducing the city's preliminary spending plan by $6 billion, Mayor de Blasio said his April 16 Executive Budget would need a major infusion of aid from the Federal Government to avert severe cuts for the fiscal year that begins July 1. 

The economic fallout from the restrictions imposed by both the city and state to cope with the coronavirus pandemic has forced his administration to anticipate $7.4 billion less in tax revenue between now and June 30, 2021, he said from the City Hall Blue Room. Noting that Governor Cuomo is projecting a state budget deficit of $10-$15 billion, Mr. de Blasio said the city has already absorbed $800 million in state-aid cuts and anticipates others 

Turns to Trump for Aid

He has prescribed an additional $2.7 billion in savings, most of it to come through reductions in spending by city agencies. The best hope of averting more-drastic cuts, the Mayor said, rests with a new $3.5-trillion stimulus bill proposed by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, that would provide a half-trillion dolllars nationwide to deal with matters like aid to localities, hospitals and small businesses.

But he added that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who he said "has stood in the way of so many things that are needed," was a "roadblock" to the stimulus bill pushed by Democratic leaders in Congress, and he appealed directly to President Trump to intercede.

Saying that the previous stimulus bill gave the city just $1.4 billion in direct aid not earmarked for coronavirus programs, the Mayor cited the bailouts of banks and the auto industry following the national recession of 2008 and asked, "How about bailing out the nation's largest city?"

The earlier stimulus funding directed to states and localities, he said, had been distributed without regard to which areas were hit hardest by the pandemic, arguing that the allocation was designed for political purposes rather than addressing need. 

'Anyone With a Heart'

"New York has borne the brunt; we're at the epicenter of the crisis," he said of the city in which more than 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths had taken place. "Anyone with a heart," he continued, would support funding that reflected the financial needs the pandemic has created here, adding that it was Mr. Trump's "native city."

"If you were talking about a hurricane or some natural disaster, you wouldn't put money in for the whole nation" rather than focusing on the areas hardest-hit, Mr. de Blasio said. "If the President speaks up, the Republican Senate will follow...If you are silent, they will not. It's on you, Mr. President."

He said he had spoken by phone to Mr. Trump and Vice President Pence a day earlier. While he declined to disclose their response, explaining it was a private conversation, he said the thrust of his appeal was that for the nation, "the only way to come back is to help New York City and all our cities" that have suffered heavy losses both financially and in lives lost. 

Lifeguards Vulnerable

The $2 billion in agency cuts the Mayor is seeking were not spelled out, but they typically include job reductions through attrition rather than layoffs. But one employee group that looks particularly vulnerable is city lifeguards, most of whom are seasonal employees. Mr. de Blasio announced that all outdoor pools would remain closed this summer. Asked by a reporter about beaches, he replied, "Right now I don't see us there anytime soon. The notion of people coming to the beach and having lifeguards, I don't see that in our sights just yet."

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement that if cuts were needed at the Department of Education, they should come from the $6 billion spent annually on central administration. "Now is not the time to cut direct services to students and school communities when they are going through so much," he said.  

The city's Independent Budget Office said the forecast could be gloomier even before future state cuts are imposed, putting the deficit at $10 billion. Mr. de Blasio defended the city's projections, which he called "careful and cautious."

But, he said, "The toughest part will be ahead, and that will be all about what happens in Washington."


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