Governors and legislative leaders from five western states that are coordinating their response to the coronavirus outbreak asked Congress on Monday to send $1 trillion to state and local governments across the U.S. in the next federal aid package.
Officials from California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington said in a letter to leaders of both parties in the House and Senate that they will have to make deep budgets cuts without more federal aid. That could include to services such as health programs and job training designed to help those hit hard by the virus.
“Without federal support, states and cities will be forced to make impossible decisions — like whether to fund critical public healthcare that will help us recover, or prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers, firefighters and other first responders," the letter stated.
The governors and officials said $1 trillion in direct, flexible payments to state and local governments will not make up for the big hits their budgets are expected to take, but “it will make a meaningful difference" in their ability to keep services running. The Assembly minority leader in California was the lone Republican to sign the letter.
It's not yet clear what another congressional aid package might look like or what type of proposal could gather bipartisan support.
According to reports, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is poised to unveil the next coronavirus aid package, encouraging Congress to “go big” on aid to help cash-strapped states and struggling Americans. Voting is possible as soon as Friday.
But the bill is heading straight into a Senate roadblock. Senate Republicans said Monday they are not planning to vote on any new relief until June. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says there is no “urgency” to act.
“Let's get on with it," Pelosi said Monday night on MSNBC.
“To those who would suggest a pause, I would say the hunger doesn't take a pause, the rent doesn't take a pause,” she said. “We have a big need. It's monumental.”
The new package, the fifth since March, is expected to carry another eye-popping price tag. President Donald Trump has signed into law nearly $3 trillion in aid approved by Congress.
Its centerpiece is likely to be money to states and cities that are struggling to avoid layoffs in the face of skyrocketing health care costs and plummeting tax receipts during the economic shutdown. There will money for virus testing and another round of direct cash payments and unemployment benefits for Americans, Pelosi said. She has not disclosed the cost.
But, McConnell told reports at the Capitol, “I don’t think we have yet felt the urgency of acting immediately.".
McConnell said he has been in close contact with the White House, assessing the aid Congress has already approved in response to the virus outbreak and next steps.
The White House convened a call with Senate Republicans earlier Monday, senators and aides said. “If we decide to go forward, we’ll go forward together,” McConnell said. His priority is to ensure any new package includes liability protections for health care providers and businesses that are reopening.
Senate Republicans are not expected to act on any further aid until after the Memorial Day recess, according to a senior Republican aide unauthorized to discuss the planning and granted anonymity.
The Senate is set to recess at the end of next week for a previously scheduled break, with senators scheduled to return June 1.
The Senate recently reopened its side of the Capitol while the House remains largely shuttered due the the health concerns.Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warned that if Trump and congressional Republicans “slow walk” more aid they will be repeating President Herbert Hoover’s “tepid” response to the Great Depression.
“It should be big and it should be bold,” Schumer said Monday.
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