Congress debates how to help struggling municipalities

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Congress has approved billions of dollars in aid for families, small businesses and hospitals, but state and local governments facing massive budget shortfalls have so far not been granted any extra cash.

“This is a big strain,” Teryn Zmuda of the National Association of Counties said. “Some counties, we’re seeing less than a percent of county workers being furloughed, and other counties, we’re seeing a quarter of their county workers being furloughed.”

Reps. Emanuel Cleaver and Lacy Clay, both Democrats from Missouri, say last week’s emergency aid package should have included aid for municipalities.

“We’ve got bail out the local governments,” Cleaver said.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she will not support any new coronavirus aid package that doesn’t extend help to local governments. Cleaver and Clay hope Republicans will come around.

“I would hope the Senate would agree with the House position and allow for this funding to flow,” Clay said.

But some Republicans say they are skeptical about writing a blank check to states, fearing the money will be mismanaged.

“Let’s make sure that we have the ability send it directly to our local officials,” Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill, said.

He and fellow Illinois Republican Rep. Mike Bost say their state was already in debt before the outbreak.

“We want to help them but sometimes our local governments and sometimes our state government — and I say that being from the state of Illinois — have theirself in certain situations because they made poor choices over the years,” Bost said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested last week that bankruptcy may be a better option for states.

“I just think that’s an interesting talking point when we start talking about letting fire, police and first responders go,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., said.

She urged a compromise.

“Let’s negotiate our way through that,” she said.

The Senate returns to session next week.

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