Counties Applaud U.S. House Passage of Relief Bill with Essential Aid, Call on Senate to Take Swift Action

Update: The U.S. Senate approved President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. The amended legislation — which includes direct, flexible aid to states and county governments across America — now heads back to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The National Association of Counties (NACo) is applauding the passage of the State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Funds legislation, part of the American Rescue Plan Act, by the U.S. House of Representatives.

According to the bill, states, along with the District of Columbia, would receive about $195 billion in direct aid, distributed mostly upon each state’s share of unemployed workers. Local governments would receive about $130 billion, which is based on population and split evenly between cities and counties. Tribal governments would receive $20 billion and U.S. territories would receive $4.5 billion.

The U.S. Department of Treasury would oversee and administer these payments to state and local governments, and every county would receive a direct allocation from Treasury. The funds have no expiration date.

According to NACo, Maryland counties would receive approximately $1.2 billion in direct aid.

NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase issued the following statement:

We applaud the House of Representatives for passing the State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Funds. This bill recognizes counties’ vast responsibilities to care for our most vulnerable residents – our sick, unemployed, elderly and youth.

Counties face a constant struggle to secure the resources necessary to serve our residents and support our frontline heroes fighting the pandemic. After a year of this crisis, far too many counties have received no, or very limited, direct fiscal relief. Unfortunately, the pressing challenges and needs facing our counties continue to outstrip our depleted local resources.

Our costs have skyrocketed, we have dug into our reserves and made difficult decisions to reduce our workforce. While we have experienced record demand for essential services, we have shed jobs at rates far outpacing the rest of the economy.

Responsible investments from our federal partners would better equip counties to help end the COVID-19 pandemic and drive economic recovery. Every dollar of local government aid amounts to at least a dollar increase in GDP growth.

With the critical aid in this bill, we will strengthen our communities by investing in small businesses and nonprofits, vaccine distribution, public health and safety, human services, especially for those suffering from domestic violence, mental illnesses and substance use disorders, and much-needed infrastructure, including surface transportation and access to broadband.

We are not asking for an unlimited federal handout. We are urging a federal response that ensures appropriate investments with a strategic focus on COVID-19 impacts and future community resiliency.

Federal investments in our communities must be commensurate with the immense scale of the challenges we face. Direct aid to counties of all sizes would improve the federal-state-local response to COVID-19, and we call on U.S. Senate to swiftly pass the State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Funds.

The U.S. Senate will start considering the pandemic assistance plan next week.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.