Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are lauding the new coronavirus relief bill approved by the U.S. Senate last week and signed by President Donald Trump Sunday as a shot in the arm for millions of Americans struggling during the pandemic.
But both Senators expressed disappointment that more direct aid was not included for ailing state and local governments.
“The truth is nobody gets everything they want in a compromise – especially one with stakes as high as this one. Personally, state and local aid was one of my priorities, and it was something I pushed for during negotiations,” Warner said in an email. “Unfortunately, this funding was not included in the final package.”
U.S. Senate leaders announced a $900 billion deal on Sunday that – if signed by President Do…
The nearly 5,600-page bill was approved by the Senate on Sunday, Dec. 20. Trump signed it yesterday afternoon after nearly a week of threatening he wouldn’t. The package will provide $600 stimulus checks to millions of Americans, $284 billion in aid to small businesses, $25 billion in emergency rental assistance and will extend federal unemployment benefits of up to $300 per week, among other things.
The bill also extends the deadline for states and localities to spend federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act funds by a full year but does nothing to provide additional direct assistance to state and local governments, many of which are facing budget and tax revenue shortfalls as a result of the pandemic.
“We did manage to extend the deadline for states to use CARES funding until end of next year. That means that states and localities will now be able to utilize essential federal dollars that they would have otherwise lost if not for this deal,” Warner said.
Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler (D) said Wednesday the extension of the CARES Act deadline would offer “much more flexibility” on using the remaining funds. Wheeler said the bill, if passed, would still help residents and small businesses and is “the most important action the federal government can take.”
“We certainly are going to work hard to make sure programs that help our residents in the most dire straits can continue on some level until this difficult time in our country comes to an end,” Wheeler said.
In Prince William County, the $82 million in state-allocated CARES Act relief provided to the county has been a lifeline for thousands of residents who are behind on bills, facing eviction or struggling to put food on the table.
All of the county’s CARES Act funds have been budgeted and appropriated, and much of it has been spent, according to county staff.
An Oct. 30 report published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that state and local shortfalls, while less than initially expected, are likely to exceed $500 billion over the next two years, and that federal aid has so far fallen short of what is needed.
At the time the report was published, states and localities had furloughed or laid off 1.2 million workers, far more than the 750,000 who lost their jobs during the Great Recession, the report said.
Local governments are facing a less dire scenario than states largely because localities rely more on property taxes, which so far have been stable, while sales taxes, a major source of revenue for states and, to a lesser extent, localities, “have fallen especially sharply,” the report said.
Kaine spokeswoman Katie Stuntz said in an email that Kaine “fought tooth and nail to provide additional relief for state and local governments and is disappointed more funds didn’t make it into this bill.” But Stuntz noted that the legislation includes new streams of funding for education, transportation, rental assistance and vaccine distribution that “will help reduce pressure on state and local budgets.”
“Senator Kaine knows additional relief will be needed to prevent budget cuts to critical local government services, and he is committed to continuing to push for more state and local funding in the next COVID relief package,” Stuntz said.
Reach Daniel Berti at firstname.lastname@example.org