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Access to reliable broadband key to cities’ resilience during the pandemic

Findings from National League of Cities’ 2021 State of the Cities survey also reveals that the availability of parks and green spaces was a top condition supporting communities.

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NLC said there is an urgent need for Congress to shore up the nation's infrastructure
NLC said there is an urgent need for Congress to shore up the nation's infrastructure

Access to reliable infrastructure, including broadband, was a key factor in determining how resilient cities and towns were in the face of Covid-19, according to a new report.

 

Findings National League of Cities’ (NLC) 2021 State of the Cities also confirm that the pandemic exacerbated existing inequalities within and among American communities, especially for people of colour.

 

Economic hardship

 

The analysis is based on a survey of local officials from nearly 600 cities, towns and villages, with 57 mayoral speeches assessed to provide context and grounding to the survey results. It found that the pandemic had a devastating effect on individuals and communities already facing economic hardship.

 

City leaders reported that access to affordable housing, vacant commercial developments, increased need for financial and nutrition assistance, a decline in infrastructure spending, and unemployment all drove worsening economic conditions, especially for communities of colour.

 

Those who lost their jobs or faced overwhelming healthcare costs turned to their local governments for relief, depending heavily on assistance programmes to stay in their homes and pay bills. NLC’s comparative analysis of data from urban and rural municipalities found that a lack of data from rural communities on the pandemic’s disparate impact on communities of colour is creating challenges for local and federal leaders alike to advance policy solutions with equity in mind.

“As recovery begins, this data will help inform federal leaders about the investments that need to be preserved, prioritised, and expanded”

The survey found that infrastructure was a key determining factor in community resiliency during the pandemic. Municipal leaders reported that residents’ access to clean water and reliable broadband services were positive drivers that enhanced their cities’ ability to respond to the pandemic and keep their communities safe.

 

The survey shows that:

  • 40 per cent of local officials indicated that access to clean drinking water was one of the most significant positive conditions supporting their communities
  • 20 per cent of local officials indicated broadband availability as a leading positive driver
  • 43 per cent of municipalities indicated that the availability of parks, recreation and community green and open spaces was a top condition supporting their communities
  • 91 per cent of local officials said insufficient funding was the top factor impacting their decision-making on local infrastructure projects.

“Local leaders on the front lines pandemic have made themselves crystal clear: our communities have suffered from dual health and economic crises that require significant and sustained long-term investments to address,” said NLC executive director and CEO Clarence Anthony. “The American Rescue Plan Act delivered essential support to local governments to help our country reopen.

“Local leaders on the front lines pandemic have made themselves crystal clear: our communities have suffered from dual health and economic crises that require significant and sustained long-term investments to address”

“As recovery begins, this data will help inform federal leaders about the investments that need to be preserved, prioritised, and expanded in order to ensure our nation’s municipalities have the tools they need to rebuild from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

 

Among other findings, the survey results showed that:

  • 41 per cent of municipalities saw a decrease in their total general fund revenues
  • Approximately half of urban city leaders are witnessing declining economic outcomes for people of colour
  • 37 per cent of officials agree that affordable housing supply is the most prominent factor driving negative local outcomes
  • Approximately 40 per cent of urban officials have seen an increase in crime over the past year, a higher rate than non-urban communities
  • 63 per cent of urban officials are witnessing an increase in homelessness
  • 68 per cent of officials say there is an increased need for small business emergency assistance.

NLC said that the survey results underscore that, with the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic depleting local budgets and postponing public works projects, there is an urgent need for Congress to shore up the nation’s infrastructure to protect and enhance the health and economic prosperity of communities. It added that if Congress fails to deliver significant investment in infrastructure now, the costs of rebuilding and repairing communities’ infrastructure assets will only increase exponentially in the coming years.

 

The NLC represents more than 200 million people in US cities, towns and villages. It works to strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions.

 

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