The dollar costs of the recent Baltimore riots are starting to be added up, and they’re staggering. Not only are these figures climbing into the tens-of-millions of dollars, but Baltimore officials are looking for outside help to pay the bills — that means they want U.S. taxpayers to shell out to bail out the budget of a city criticized by many for doing little to stop the mayhem.
According to an article in The Baltimore Sun, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake — who infamously said she initially wanted to give the Freddie Gray rioters “who wished to destroy, space to do that” — will now lead the charge to seek “reimbursement” from the federal government for Baltimore’s expenses in dealing with the violent protestors, looters, arsonists and trouble-makers who terrorized parts of the city.
Baltimore’s finance director says, at this point, the price tag for the city’s part in covering riot expenses will be at least $20 million — that includes costs of police personnel and equipment. And guess where they want to go to get some of the money to cover that bill?
“Henry J. Raymond, Baltimore’s finance director, said the city can temporarily cover the costs from its rainy day fund while seeking reimbursement for up to 75 percent from Federal Emergency Management Agency,” reports The Sun newspaper.
Those federal funds would, supposedly, be made available if President Obama issues a disaster declaration because of the widespread damage from the racially charged rioting and the police action in response to it. “The $20 million estimate released by city officials does not include the cost to businesses of the unrest. The figure also does not include state or federal costs. It’s unclear when those figures will be tallied.”
To be clear, that estimated $20 million hit to the city’s budget doesn’t take into account the untold cost of repairing or rebuilding some 380 businesses attacked by rioters during the unrest that was sparked by the police-custory death of Freddie Gray. More federal funds could be directed toward getting those businesses going again, according to Bill Cole, president of the Baltimore Development Corp.
“Businesses may also be eligible for loans from the Small Business Administration, which has estimated business damages of at least $9 million. The city will assist those seeking federal funds, Cole said.”
A recent article in the Baltimore Business Journal points out the additional costs to the city in terms of lost revenue because of businesses being shut down as well as tourists and conventions avoiding an area seen as tense and troubled. The report cited the lingering losses to Los Angeles following the riots there close to a quarter-century ago.
A 2004 study on the 1992 Los Angeles riots showed that over the 10 years following the riots there was a cumulative loss of at least $3.8 billion in taxable sales in the city.
Victor A. Matheson, co-author of the study, said he found that the economic impact of riots is even larger than that of natural disasters, because businesses are more likely to see natural disasters as a one-time occurrence as opposed to an ongoing safety issue.
Do you think Baltimore should be declared a disaster zone, making the city eligible for financial assistance from taxpayers outside the area? Feel free to let us know what you think by commenting below.
BCN editor’s note: This article first appeared at Western Journalism.