Governor Larry Hogan today issued a statement after Congress approved a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package that includes an 11-week extension of federal unemployment benefits, $600 direct payments to Americans based on income, and additional funding for businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program.
“After more than eight months of pushing to get this done, I am relieved that Congress has finally passed a COVID-19 relief bill to help struggling families and small businesses. This took much longer than it should have, and the delays were inexcusable,” said Governor Hogan.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, while the legislation does not include direct funding for state and local governments, it does extend the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) spending deadline to December 30, 2021.
The CRF was established under the CARES Act and provides $150 billion in federal aid for state, county, and municipal governments to address significant expenditures related to public health and safety needs. As established under the CARES Act, state and local CRF allocations must be spent by December 30, 2020.
As leaders in the fight against COVID-19, counties are expending CRF funds to address immediate health and safety concerns, as well as to promote economic resiliency and recovery. From small business support grant programs to rental and mortgage assistance, these dollars have been critical for counties to properly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are deeply disappointed that this package does not include support for state and local governments, which continues to be desperately needed as we battle COVID-19 on the front lines,” said Governor Hogan. “But with so many people hurting right now, any kind of relief—even if it is only short-term—is certainly better than nothing.”
The National Association of Counties (NACo) expressed disappointment in the legislation, which fails frontline COVID-19 responders and county residents. Calling on Congress to pass a bipartisan coronavirus relief package that provides aid to counties, NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase said:
America’s counties remain on the front lines of this pandemic, addressing community health and human services needs, distributing vaccines and dealing with an economy on life support.
Our message today is the same as it has been since the beginning of this pandemic: a coronavirus relief package without aid for state and local governments fails counties and our residents, whose lives and livelihoods are on the line.
As the level of government with vast public health, safety, economic and other community responsibilities, our efforts in fighting COVID-19 have resulted in massive budgetary effects – as much as $202 billion through FY2021. Many counties’ revenues are down, and our expenses are up.
Counties have made difficult decisions to cut services and job-creating capital projects all while confronting challenges with testing, contact tracing and vaccine distribution planning. Additionally, local governments have lost 1 million jobs since the pandemic began.
County leaders are committed to working with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and the administration to secure direct, flexible and equitable funding for counties of all sizes, so that together, we can protect the health of our residents and our economy.”
The omnibus appropriations package includes a few provisions for which NACo has advocated. Specifically, counties welcome:
- A one-year extension of the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) deadline, providing much-needed time and flexibility to address the ongoing impacts of this crisis
- $22 billion for health-related expenses of state, local, tribal, and territorial governments
- $27 billion for state highways, transit agencies, Amtrak, and airports
- $25 billion for a new Emergency Federal Rental Assistance Program
- Passage of the Broadband Data Act, which will help identify areas of the country with limited access to broadband
- $13 billion for nutrition assistance, food banks, and senior nutrition programs
Leaders paired the relief bill with the annual $1.4 trillion spending bill, which included measures that had been negotiated over months by the House and Senate Appropriations panels.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.