In the latest economic aid package, which cleared the Senate late yesterday, Democrats got a lot of what they asked for. The bill includes improvements to the Paycheck Protection Program, for example, as well as funding for hospitals that Republicans were originally prepared to delay. From a progressive perspective, there’s no denying the final version is a considerable improvement on the alternative pushed by GOP leaders last week.
But there was one key priority that didn’t make the final bill: aid to states and municipalities. Republicans deemed this a “non-starter” and wouldn’t budge. Fearing a collapse of the process, Democratic leaders yielded on this point, leaving little doubt they expect to return to it in the next round of talks. This is a matter of grave urgency and we shouldn’t have to live through another Congressional recess — no matter how short, before the House takes up a bill.
State budget shortfalls could total more than $500 billion over the next few years, which will dwarf the roughly $65 billion in aid in earlier COVID-19 packages. Without substantially more aid, states — which are required to balance their budgets every year, even in recessions and depressions — will almost certainly lay off teachers and other workers and cut health care, education, and other key services, making the economic downturn more severe.
Furthermore, we need to make sure the appropriation requires that the funds be distributed to counties and municipalities based on actual need rather than some other formula like population. In our County Party’s COVID Action Calls with our County Supervisors, this has been a repeated concern. Coconino County is testing positive at a rate twice that of anywhere else in Arizona. This has put a tremendous strain on our public health resources and leave us short of vital supplies for our front line workers.
Contact Congress and ask for immediate action on aid to counties and municipalities. “No recess until a bill passes.” Suggested script for phone and emails:
“My name is ___________________, I live in ______________, at zip code __________. I’m calling to urge you to develop and pass legislation that will lead to substantial support for State and Local governments as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. WIthout substantial aid, states, which are required to balance their budgets every year, even in recessions and depressions, will almost certainly lay off teachers and other workers, cut health care, education, and other key services, making the economic downturn much more severe. Furthermore, it is essential that whatever aid is provided that it be allocated to counties and municipalities based on actual need rather than some other formula like population. Please act decisively and quickly!! Thank you for your time and attention.”