Schatz Calls For Dedicated, Flexible State And County Government Emergency Funding

HONOLULU – Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and 32 of his colleagues called for state, local, and tribal governments to receive dedicated, flexible funding in the next COVID-19 emergency funding package. While Hawai‘i will receive $1.25 billion under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s Relief Fund to help state and local governments respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, more flexible, dedicated funding in the next emergency funding package is necessary.

“On behalf of our state, local, and tribal governments, it is essential that you include robust, dedicated, and flexible funding to all units of state and local government in the next interim emergency coronavirus package to support their ongoing efforts in the fight against this pandemic. Not only are these public servants on the front line of the immediate response effort, they are also major employers navigating unprecedented declines in revenue just as the need for their services hits an all-time high. We can and we must work together to get this essential funding to our local partners as quickly as possible,” Schatz and the senators wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Senator Schatz was joined by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

The letter can be read in full below or click here.

Dear Leader McConnell and Secretary Mnuchin:

On behalf of our state, local, and tribal governments, it is essential that you include robust, dedicated, and flexible funding to all units of state and local government in the next interim emergency coronavirus package to support their ongoing efforts in the fight against this pandemic. Not only are these public servants on the front line of the immediate response effort, they are also major employers navigating unprecedented declines in revenue just as the need for their services hits an all-time high. We can and we must work together to get this essential funding to our local partners as quickly as possible.

While the Coronavirus Relief Fund authorized in the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136) was an important first step, there is no guarantee that any of that funding will reach the millions of Americans who live in communities with fewer than 500,000 residents. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has made it clear that no unit of local government representing fewer than 500,000 residents is eligible to apply for direct funding. The next interim emergency coronavirus package must include dedicated funding for the cities, counties, tribes, and other local governments that serve these communities.

The intent of the legislative language authorizing the Coronavirus Relief Fund was to provide flexible funding to state and local jurisdictions as they respond to an unfolding national health and economic crisis. Flexibility is critical as federal response guidelines change almost daily. Our local partners have to constantly adjust and adapt to maintain a consistent response while grappling with dramatically reduced state and local revenues that are the direct result of COVID-19’s effects on our economy. While we remain hopeful that the U.S. Department of the Treasury will issue implementation guidance for the Coronavirus Relief Fund that is consistent with the aforementioned Congressional intent, we also know that our state, local, and tribal partners need certainty now that they can use all current and future federal funds to cover reductions in revenues resulting from the public health emergency and faltering COVID-19 economy.

Our local partners, unlike the federal government, have a legal requirement to balance their budget. They do not have the luxury of carrying debt over year after year. We stand with our country’s governors, mayors, county officials, and tribal leaders in asking you to put politics aside and support our local partners. They cannot afford to wait any longer.

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