Over 12,000 Richmonders have filed for unemployment since the Coronavirus public health crisis began. That is almost 5.4% of our total population.
This got me thinking, what are some things that we could be doing as a government right now? What would be some things that I’d be trying to implement if I was mayor to help those people that are hurting right now?
I came up with three things that are simple, straightforward, and can be implemented right away to help our people.
The first thing is a housing payment assistance program, the second is property tax relief, and the third is simply just don’t raise our water rates.
1. Housing payment assistance program. It is a $500 payment to those Richmonders who are newly unemployed. I know that is not going to pay the whole rent, but it’s going to help them get through this time. We will have to scour through the budget or maybe pull some money out of the rainy day fund, but if we do that seriously maybe we can make the amount higher. $500 to help pay the rent or mortgage can go a long way towards helping our people who are hurting right now, and that’s what we should be focused on.
2. Property tax relief. Same idea. Right now we’re all stressed. We’re all hurting. It’s a very uncertain time during this health crisis but also economically, so what can we do? The second payment for 2020 property taxes is coming due in the next couple of months, but those rates and the amount we’re paying on that was set in our old economic reality. Those assessments were done before this health crisis started, so let’s give a rebate or let’s lower the property tax rates so that we can put a little extra money in people’s pockets. Help them get through this time. Help our people out that are hurting.
3. Don’t raise our water rates right now. You probably know living in Richmond, we pay some of the most ridiculous and highest water rates in the entire country. What you might not know is that the current proposed budget before City Council calls for raising those rates yet again and that is ridiculous in and of itself but right now during this crisis, it’s even crazier. We need to throw that plan away. Throw it in the trash where it belongs because we should not be raising our rates on people who are already hurting in the middle of a public health crisis. Plus high water ratesdisproportionately harm the same people who are being harmed by these tough economic times. In fact, if I was mayor I’d be trying to find ways to lower our water rates, but that’s a battle for another time. Right now we need to focus on helping our people who are hurting. On helping everyonesurvive these tough times, and how we can set ourselves up to thrive when we come out of this.
Let’s spend our time trying to solve the problems that are before us so that we can survive this crisis and then thrive when it is over.