Blue Dogs Endorse Fifth Coronavirus Relief Package With Bipartisan, Bicameral Support

September 29, 2020 by Reece Nations
FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2019, file photo Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., talks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington. As President Donald Trump tries to moves on from the coronavirus, Congress is rushing to fill the void and prepare the country for the long fight ahead. “This is going to be on us,” said Sherrill, D-N.J. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON – The Democratic Blue Dog Coalition announced its support for an emergency funding bill to help municipalities withstand the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation, introduced in the House by Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., provides $500 billion in coronavirus relief funds to “every state, county and community in the country, while prioritizing assistance to the areas with the greatest need,” according to a Blue Dog Coalition release.

Sherill, who serves on the House Committees on Armed Services and Science, Space, and Technology, co-chairs the Blue Dog Task Force on Infrastructure and Job Creation.

“We’re asking schools to invest millions in remote learning,” she said in a statement. “Public transit authorities are overhauling their cleaning programs to meet new sanitation needs. Small businesses continue to need support as we grapple with the economic impact of the pandemic. State and local governments need support to help people get back on their feet and stay healthy.”

Sherill’s statement continued, “Federal assistance to states is the fiscally responsible solution to this challenge, and I appreciate the Blue Dog Coalition’s support of the bipartisan SMART Act, which will empower our towns, counties, cities, and states with the resources they need to help stem the spread of COVID and help our economy recover.”

The act, cited as the State Municipal Assistance for Response and Transition Act or SMART Act, appropriates funds from the U.S. Treasury to states for “fiscal year 2020, to remain available until expended,” according to the bill’s text.

The Blue Dogs support of COVID-19 relief legislation further entails support for an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, k-12 schools and higher learning institutions, another round of “economic impact payments,” pandemic response spending oversight and measures aimed at “keeping workers tethered to their jobs,” according to the release.

“Across Upstate New York and the country, our rural communities are hurting,” Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y., co-chair of the Blue Dog Task Force on Economic Growth, said in a statement. “Schools, law enforcement, and other essential services are facing steep cuts. Washington needs to act. The SMART Act will get our state and local governments the relief they need and lift the burdensome Washington restrictions that are hurting our small cities, towns, and counties.”

Brindisi’s statement continued, “The response to COVID-19 needs to be above partisan politics and the Blue Dog Coalition is committed to advancing bipartisan solutions that can help. The SMART Act will do just that.”

If passed, the act would eliminate the current provision that dictates only local governments with populations over 500,000 are eligible for coronavirus relief funds.

Additionally, the SMART Act would reserve funds to be allocated to Tribal governments, meaning “the governing body of an Indian Tribe,” according to the bill’s text.

“Our county and town budgets are being stretched to the max, with local municipalities facing serious revenue shortfalls and budget gaps because of the pandemic’s impact on economic activity in North Jersey, where we were in the eye of the COVID storm early on,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., co-chair of the Blue Dog Task Force on Economic Growth, said in a statement. “That’s why I’ve been fighting since day one to claw federal resources back to each county and community in my District — to help pay for our teachers, law enforcement, EMS, and firefighters.”

Gottheimer’s statement continued, “I’m proud that the Blue Dogs are endorsing this bipartisan, bicameral legislation which I helped introduce with Sen. Menendez, so that we can get the backs of all those who serve our communities.” 

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