Newark Mayor: ‘Praying’ for a quick stimulus boost as businesses falter, coronavirus rescue talks deadlock

Nick Monte
·2-min read

As Washington’s fractured leaders continue their tortured negotiations over a coronavirus bill, Newark is pulling out all the stops to help its small business — with Mayor Ras Baraka issuing a stark warning about the consequences of failure.

New Jersey’s biggest city is helping restaurants by expanding liquor license restrictions while increasing maximum capacity in stores during the Coronavirus pandemic. Like many small businesses hit hard during coronavirus lockdowns, the mayor said his city’s establishments are struggling.

“Businesses are pulling themselves through this by their own boot straps …it’s giving them a little better outlook than a month ago, but they’re not on stable ground,” Baraka told Yahoo Finance in an interview.

Although President Donald Trump — locked in a tough battle for reelection — asked Congressional Republicans to support a much larger relief bill for Americans suffering during the pandemic, talks with Democrats have yet to yield a breakthrough.

Baraka’s remarks also come at a time when a new survey found that U.S. mayors are grappling with intense challenges in their cities in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Nearly all expect their city’s operating budget will decline over the next 12-18 months as the coronavirus continues to restrain public life.

“We don’t know how long the coronavirus is going to last or badly it’s going to affect our budget,” the mayor explained.

“We have to plan as if we’ll be in this for at least 2021 … and work hard collectively to keep these businesses up, but we’re praying that [Congress and the White House] come together with something quick,” he said — adding that any relief in general needs to come through sooner for these businesses.

As cities across the country feel the strain of plunging tax revenues, Newark is doing more than buckling the trend thanks to a bond refinancing deal for its debt. That issuance has yielded nearly $15 million in gross debt service savings, and helped the city avoid firing or furloughing government workers.

“It’s definitely helpful for us … and it helped us from laying off people during this devastating period,” Baraka added.