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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis city leaders are trying to decide how best to use a $113 million coronavirus relief check from the federal government.
Many families and businesses have had their finances hammered by the pandemic, but it’s also hit local governments, drying up their revenue streams.
That’s left Memphis struggling, Mayor Jim Strickland said.
“It’s been the longest six or seven weeks, that I know of, and I can’t imagine the heartbreak that so many families are going through,” Strickland said. “We had a significant loss of revenue that’s already occurred and will continue for some time.”
So a $113 million pandemic relief check from the feds is welcome news.
“Obviously, it was a huge direct deposit that the city has never seen before in that amount of money, but we also knew the limits in what could be done with the money.”
The city cannot use that money to balance its budget, but it can reimburse itself for out-of-pocket expenses due to the coronavirus.
So far, the City Council is using $10 million to help Memphians who’ve lost businesses and jobs, and need help paying rent
“Maybe it’ll help us avoid financial collapse,” council member Patrice Robinson said. “But it really doesn’t help us with those hard decisions and cuts it we’re going to have to make.”
The council and the mayor hope the feds will eventually allow them to use the stimulus to pay down an anticipated $100 million budget shortfall.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge, one that I think we can meet, and hopefully get through long enough until this economy picks up again,” Strickland said.
The city is in for some serious belt-tightening. Next Tuesday, the mayor will give the council a revised budget and at that point, we should have a better idea of just how bad the immediate future could be.