House Dems Propose Nearly $1 Trillion In State And Local Government COVID Aid | WAMC

House Dems Propose Nearly $1 Trillion In State And Local Government COVID Aid

May 12, 2020

The next federal coronavirus relief package is taking shape, and it includes much-sought aid for state and local governments that are warning of imminent cuts.

U.S. House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey talked about the Heroes Act on a call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. New York Congresswoman Lowey, who represents the 17th District, says the bill bolsters coronavirus testing and tracing; supports frontline workers and health care providers; and helps New Yorkers recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This bill delivers nearly $1 trillion to states and local governments so they can continue providing vital services and keep public servants like police officers, firefighters, EMTs and teachers on the job,” says Lowey.

She says New York would receive $67 billion for the state and its local governments. If enacted, the Democrats’ spending package would provide an estimated $34.4 billion in relief funds for the state; $17.2 billion for New York City; and $15.1 billion for other municipalities and counties in New York.

“That relief for our state and local governments includes $1.3 billion for my district, which covers all of Rockland and part of Westchester Counties,” Lowey says.

In addition to providing funds directly to state and local governments:

“We build on the CARES Act with an additional $100 billion for the Health Provider Relief Fund, which will focus a good bit of funding on hotspots like New York, in my state,” Lowey says. “We provide $75 billion for a nationwide testing and contact tracing strategy.”

“$100 billion nationwide, of which at least $5.1 billion is included for New York state to support K-12 and higher education; expanded SNAP benefits and other nutrition programs so that children and families have enough to eat; and new funds worth nearly $200 billion to help struggling families make the rent or pay their mortgage,” says Lowey.

Outside of appropriations, Lowey says a number of provisions in the Heroes Act also supports New Yorkers — including rolling back a longtime target of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s.

“A hazard pay fund for essential employees who have continued working at their own risk through this crisis in healthcare and other professions; the extension of unemployment insurance benefits to January 31, 2021; a second, more substantial round of direct payments of $1,200 per family members up to a total of $6,000 per household; and a repeal of the cap on the state and local tax deduction, often called SALT.”

President Trump signed tax legislation in December 2017 that capped SALT at $10,000. Meantime, Democratic New York Congressman Antonio Delgado says he’s driving to Washington Thursday for a House vote on the package Friday.

“And hopefully, if we can pass this bill introduced today,  we can sustain our businesses for the remainder of the year, sustain our local governments for the remainder of the year, and not feel so pressed to rush into a situation that might potentially cause us more harm,” says Delgado.

Delgado was speaking during a Facebook live town hall with Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan. Last week, the 19th District congressman joined with fellow Democrats – Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand — and Republican New York Congressman Lee Zeldin to announce the Direct Support for Communities Act. The measure provides local governments with direct federal relief that can be used to pay for essential services and offset lost revenues and increased costs from the COVID-19 emergency.

“Local government, at the end of the day, that’s where the work gets done, that’s where the services are provided and coordinated, and so to not be there for local government, to not figure out how to support in this time of crisis would be, in my estimation, be a real blight on us in Washington,” Delgado says.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made comments in April that met with disapproval from New York’s congressional representatives on both sides of the aisle. Lowey joins Schumer in reiterating disapproval.

“Senator McConnell has made the ridiculous comments that states should just declare bankruptcy,” says Lowey. “This bill shows that, instead of irresponsible rhetoric, House Democrats have real solutions to this crisis.”

Also in the Heroes Act, an estimated $3.8 billion would go to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA. And there is money to keep the U.S. Postal Service working as well as to hold safe and fair elections.