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Area Officials Discuss Next COVID Relief Bill

Rep. Richard Neal
Rep. Richard Neal (file photo)

With Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote, Democrats in the U.S. Senate early Friday took action to move forward a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. State and federal officials provided updates on the bill on Friday.

As House committees plan to begin deliberations on the next coronavirus relief package next week, Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal of Massachusetts’ First District updated reporters on the legislation Friday afternoon.

Neal was among Democratic members of Congress who met with President Biden about the aid package that includes direct payments to individuals.

“He indicated a willingness to target the impact payments to make sure that the people that needed it the most received the checks, but he would not retreat on the $2,000, which I thought was good, and he will not retreat from the size of the package at $1.9 trillion.”

Neal said with the Democratic-led House and Senate poised to embrace the legislation, there is still time for Republicans to offer amendments to the package – though members of the GOP proposed a much smaller bill.

Of the $1.9 trillion plan backed by the White House, Neal’s Ways and Means Committee will be considering more than $900 billion in proposed spending.

“So there is substantial coronavirus aid here. There is money for transportation here. There is $350 billion for state and local governments here,” said Neal.

The issue of payments to state and local governments has been of top concern in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo, at a briefing Friday with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, said he wants a disproportionate share of state and local aid to go to New York, hit hardest in the early days of the pandemic.

“We had no notice. That’s why I called it an ambush. We couldn’t prepare our hospitals. We couldn’t prepare our people. We didn’t even know it was here because the federal government never told us. That’s why it’s their federal negligence. Now you’re going to allocate funding to pay for the damage,” said Cuomo.

On a press call Friday with Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, a fellow Democrat, New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said she supports distribution of federal aid to state and local governments to go to the areas with the highest need, including her home state.

“I do believe, under pretty much any merit-based formula, New York will not only get its fair share, but get in excess of the $15 billion that Governor Cuomo has said is his must-have gap filled.”

The governor last month threatened a lawsuit against Congress if $15 billion is not provided to New York to balance the state budget.

Representative DeLauro, who appeared with Gillibrand to discuss the reintroduction of a bill to provide paid family leave, agreed with the Senator on fair distribution.  

“Yes on the need, where the most difficulty is. We also have to take a look at where the underserved population have been and the loss of revenue there. So there will be a number of factors that go into how this money is directed – whether it is directed to states, whether it is directed to localities – but the important point is we are going to provide that relief,” said DeLauro.

With movement on the relief bill, Representative Neal said President Biden has also begun looking forward to the next major stimulus bill.

“As we proceeded in the course of the conversation he also was very clear about the idea that we will now proceed to infrastructure once this COVID package is put in place,” said Neal.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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