WASHINGTON — American voters overwhelmingly approve of significant federal funding for states, cities and towns to counter the devastating economic effects of the coronavirus on the economy and vital public services, new polling reveals. And they decisively reject the state bankruptcy alternative proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Hart Research Associates conducted a national survey for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the American Federation of Teachers on the pressing issue of prioritizing federal aid to states, cities and towns in the next round of COVID-19 legislation.
Interviews conducted online with 1,008 likely voters from May 4 to 7 show that federal support for state and local services is a top voter priority, with strong majorities backing funding for hospitals, testing and tracing, schools, local public services and police. In contrast, few voters say the payroll tax cuts favored by conservatives and employer immunity for lawsuits demanded by McConnell are priorities.
By a 3-to-1 margin, voters say funding for education, health care and other public services is more important than keeping down government spending and debt, and they are far more concerned that the government won’t spend enough to support the economy than spend too much.
Eighty four percent of voters favor a $1 trillion federal aid package for states, cities and towns. The House is expected to vote Friday on the HEROES Act, introduced yesterday, which would devote a similar amount to replace lost revenue from the economic shutdown and maintain public services such as health care, law enforcement and education.
Voters are 45 percentage points more likely to support (54%) than oppose (9%) candidates who support federal aid, and say Congress’ failure to provide aid would hurt their states and communities. They overwhelmingly believe that the need for federal aid is real and credible. Fully 82% reject McConnell’s call for states to enter bankruptcy as a way to deal with revenue shortfalls.
AFSCME President Lee Saunders said: “There is nothing partisan about wanting your children’s school to be well-staffed, or the garbage to be picked up at your home or business. Democrats, Republicans and independents alike want clean water to come out of the tap. People need the ambulance to show up on time whether they live in red, blue or purple states. If Congress does not act immediately to help our states, cities and towns, these vital services will continue to be threatened, and the everyday heroes who deliver them will be given pink slips. We can beat this pandemic and open the economy if we keep public services strong and public service workers on the job.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “Americans get it. Communities rely on essential public services like schools, hospitals and ambulances, transit and buses, garbage collection, firefighting and policing –and particularly so in a health care and economic crisis. Sadly, the president and Mitch McConnell don’t seem to get it. Instead, they’re holding federal funding to states, localities, schools and towns hostage, trying to use it as a chit and playing politics. Both Democratic and Republican voters reject that cynicism because they’re depending on public services to fight the pandemic and restart the economy.
“If we’re going to reopen safely, we need more funds, not less – and House Democrats have heeded that call with the HEROES Act. Public employees in red and blue states are making sacrifices every day to treat patients, educate children and keep public services running. But McConnell sees this moment as a chance to fulfill his long-held dream of running a scythe through them.
“This survey shows that Americans don’t agree – they refuse to pit the economy against their health and safety and don’t want politicians plunging us into further recession. Americans are watching and will cast their votes accordingly.”