McSally Didn’t Want To Send Millions in Federal Aid To Small-Town Arizona. They Got It Anyway.

By Jessica Swarner

May 29, 2020

The aid was dispersed weeks after Arizona’s junior senator said local governments would be seen as “cash cows” for accepting relief funds.

Gov. Doug Ducey announced Wednesday that Arizona cities, towns, and counties will receive $441 million despite Sen. Martha McSally saying they are undeserving of federal aid.

The money will come from $1.9 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds that Ducey can spend at his discretion. 

“I don’t like it when the federal government makes governors stand in line and beg, ‘Mother may I?’” Ducey said during a discussion with several mayors. “And I don’t want to do that to our local leaders either.”

In an April 29 town hall with the mayor of Surprise, McSally had said she believed the money the federal government had already given to Phoenix, Mesa, and Tucson was enough to help other municipalities because it would trickle down through the state.

RELATED: McSally To Arizona Cities: Drop Dead

“This is not the time for states and cities–unlike Arizona, unlike Surprise–who have mismanaged their budgets over the course of many decades, for them to use this as an opportunity to see you, as a taxpayer in Arizona, as a cash cow for them,” McSally said. 

Multiple mayors pushed back on the senator’s comments, saying it’s impractical to think municipalities don’t need more help considering the major shortfalls they are experiencing. 

Now, local leaders are thanking Ducey for his decision to push aid their way. Jen Daniels of Gilbert said in a video posted to Twitter that her town will receive $29.2 million from the state. 

“I’ll be working directly with our Council to ensure that we are using those dollars so that they can meet the needs of our community now and in the future,” she said. 

Local governments have seen their costs spike for police and firefighters at the same time that sales tax revenue plummeted as people are staying home more to slow the spread of the virus.

According to the governor, local governments will have flexibility in choosing how to spend the money, but it must go toward covering coronavirus-related costs. 

That flexibility involves some budgetary sleight of hand that the governor’s office suggested: Cities can cover their police and fire budgets with the new federal funds, freeing up that money for other uses. That’s critical because cities face large budget deficits due to business shutdowns triggered by the coronavirus. 

So far, the state’s three biggest cities along with Maricopa and Pima counties have received $960 million in federal aid from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. 

Arizona’s 88 other cities and 13 other counties said Congress intended for them to get a piece of the nearly $1.9 billion that’s earmarked for the state. But Wednesday’s announcement leaves Ducey still with more than $1.5 billion. 

The governor did not detail how he’d spend the rest of the money he controls but said he’d look to support the health system and social safety net, and boost the state’s unemployment trust fund. The state has logged hundreds of thousands of new unemployment claims since late March, pushing the unemployment rate above 16%.

“The reason it’s not the full amount is there are going to be needs that are yet unforeseen at the state level,” Ducey said. “We want to ensure that we have enough to pay and replenish our unemployment benefits.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.



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