NewDEAL Sends Coronavirus Relief Recommendations to Congress

April 28, 2020 by Dan McCue
The U.S. Capitol. Feb. 4, 2020. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – NewDEAL, a network of state and local leaders, is urging Congressional leaders of both parties to consider the input of those on the front lines of dealing with the coronavirus outbreak as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill to craft the next relief package.

In a letter to the House and Senate Leadership, NewDEAL CEO Debbie Cox Bultan said while there remains a general need for more pandemic response funding, the next aid package should be more granular in its approach to meeting needs overlooked or set aside in previous bills.

Bultan’s recommendations include eliminating the CARES Act requirement that state and local governments spend funds on new initiatives rather than on replacing lost revenue.

“That provision creates major challenges when tax revenue is tanking across the board and important services are in jeopardy, including education and health care,” she said.

Among the cited examples of a community in peril is New Castle County, Delaware, where County Executive Matt Meyer has said there will be a significant pandemic-related budgetary shortfall which can’t be covered by current federal aid.

Bultan also said municipalities and counties with fewer than 500,000 people should not be exempt from direct support as they were in the CARES Act, “delaying aid that is desperately needed now.”

These and other suggestions included with the letter were derived with input from nearly 200 NewDEAL members in 48 states.

Other proposals include:

  • Working with the FDA to lift barriers that are currently preventing import of health care supplies for providers serving COVID-19 patients;
  • Reopening the ACA marketplace exchange for health insurance enrollment as states with federally facilitated marketplaces can’t open one up on their own;
  • Expanding coverage for young adults so they can stay on their parents’ health care plans to the age of 27;
  • Ensuring agriculture and agriculture-related industries are eligible for SBA loans and including Forest Recovery Assistance to protect the timber industry;
  • Revising election procedures and outreach so that more people are encouraged to take advantage of early-voting hours or vote by mail;
  • Supporting workforce training and in some cases retraining for those whose jobs won’t return after the pandemic ends;
  • Investing in research hubs across our country; and,
  • Allocating funding to boost mass transit systems, “which are critical to local economies and will be critical to the recovery,” Bultan said.

She also suggests Congress consider distributing small business aid to states and cities for distribution, “as state and local governments would be able to mobilize more quickly.”

The letter offers ways to make up for the prolonged closure of local schools, including increased funding to pay for expanded summer school programs, and making money available to districts to allow them to extend the school day next year.

The letter was sent Monday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

“In the midst of one of the most serious crises in recent history, I know all of our members stand ready to work with you to provide the most effective government response to the serious challenges Americans face,” Bultan concluded.

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