Dear Friends,

As we’ve noted when advocating for more direct federal funding for states and cities, budgets really matter. They are moral documents that outline our priorities. And how you cut budgets in tough times matters. At this point, some budget cuts appear inevitable in most places.

As officials begin the process of trimming their budgets, reducing services, and furloughing employees, they must do so with the careful application of a racial equity lens or they may only worsen the inequities that this pandemic has laid bare. 

Some key questions to ask when making equitable decisions are: Who benefits? Who is burdened? Who is missing? How do we know? 

Everyone benefits from a more just, equitable system. Racial equity develops outcomes that will result in improvements for all groups, although the strategies may be targeted based on the needs of a particular group. The bottom line is that budget cuts will only be fair if equity is prioritized and actively applied in the decision-making process.

We are seeing firsthand through COVID-19 how underlying inequities have devastating consequences. As a society, we need to keep our eyes open to those inequities going forward, and we can do that by calling out for policymakers to advance equitable budget decisions that close the gaps between us rather than widening them.

Check out our full post on viewing budgets through an equity lens here.

Stay safe and stay connected.

Mitch Landrieu
Founder and President


News and stories about how southern communities are reacting to COVID-19

Alabama: Birmingham’s Finance Chief projects the city could see an $18 million revenue drop by the end of June due to the coronavirus quarantine.

Arkansas: Marion County Judge is reducing hours for government employees to address budget constraints due to COVID-19.

Florida: Broward County Public Schools are anticipating revenue shortfalls in the range of 15-25 percent without federal intervention to offset some of the losses.

Georgia: State agencies have been told to plan to cut more than $3.5 billion from their budgets in the upcoming fiscal year, a move that could bring furloughs and layoffs among Georgia’s 200,000 teachers and state employees.

Kentucky: The Office of the State Budget director released a report projecting a $500 million budget gap because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Louisiana: The Louisiana Public Defender Board has long claimed their offices are dangerously underfunded, but now the financial blow dealt by the coronavirus pandemic could threaten the entire system. 23 of the 42 districts have furloughed staff or reduced salaries.

Mississippi: Bay St. Louis City Council members voted to take a temporary 20 percent pay cut in the face of nearly $1.8 million in projected revenue losses this fiscal year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

North Carolina: The State Department of Transportation is expecting a $300 million budget shortfall, delaying all but about 50 major projects scheduled to start in the next 12 months.

South Carolina: Municipal governments across Greenville County are preparing to pass budgets for next year, despite the uncertainty stemming from the coronavirus.

Tennessee: In the latest ripple of coronavirus financial hardships, Nashville school leaders are working to cut $25 million from next year’s budget.

Texas: The city of Richardson predicts a revenue loss of about $18 million from the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Virginia: Arlington property owners will be paying more and probably receiving fewer services in the 2021 budget adopted by County Board members.

West Virginia: With the COVID-19 pandemic slowing tourism, Marion County officials are expressing concerns regarding funding and revenues.

Recent News & Commentary

News, opinion pieces and research from across the country on the coronavirus

What Works Cities: Boosting Economic Mobility: The Great Challenge of Our Time
In just a few short weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed this reality and the fragility of millions of Americans’ livelihoods and ambitions — especially those of low-income workers and communities of color.

Boston Globe: Planning for a post-coronavirus economy must focus on racial inequities

The inequities of those most impacted by COVID-19, Black- and brown- majority communities, show that we are not, in fact, in this together.


Resources to Support Your Community

There is an opportunity for each of us to do our part during this pandemic. Click the link to see a list of volunteer opportunities and ideas to provide aid, relief, and comfort while still observing precautions that will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

America’s Food Fund 
COVID-19 has left millions unsure where their next meal will come from. The Emerson Collective, Leonardo DiCaprio and Apple launched America’s FoodFund, supporting Feeding America and World Central Kitchen. Click to donate.

COVID-19: Local Action Tracker
The National League of Cities and Bloomberg Philanthropies have teamed up to collect and share actions taken by local leaders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.