Louisiana’s local governments seek COVID-19 relief in upcoming legislative session

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — Louisiana legislators will start a 30-day special session Monday with more than 70 agenda items — including how to keep local governments afloat.

A state audit report projects a combined $860 million shortfall among parish and municipal governments, largely because the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt sales tax collections.

“They still want to have good fire protection, police protection,” Louisiana Municipal Association executive director John Gallagher said. “You still need to get your trash picked up. Your water and sewer needs to work. You hate to lay off firefighters or close fire stations.”

One proposed remedy — which may gain attention in the upcoming session — would take unused dollars from a $275 million small business grant, then put them toward city and parish governments.

Certain state lawmakers had argued the grant program hadn’t been giving small businesses money quickly enough, though figures released Monday signal rising momentum. State Treasurer John Schroder’s office says, as of this week, it has obligated $170 million to small businesses hit by the pandemic.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has signaled interest in diverting whatever funds remain from the program, which came from Louisiana’s share of the federal CARES Act.

The Legislature’s second special session of 2020 begins Monday, Sept. 28 at 6 p.m., and they must finish their business by Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 6 p.m.

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