Congress Called on to Include ‘Direct and Flexible Funding’ to All Counties in Next Relief Bill
WASHINGTON – As Congress considers a fourth coronavirus relief package, it must include direct and flexible funding and resources to counties of all sizes, the National Association of Counties said this week.
In a lengthy letter sent to the leaders of both the House and Senate, the association said while its 3,069 member counties remain “on the frontlines” of the nation’s ongoing public health emergency response, they are also experiencing massive and unprecedented declines in revenue as a result of the related economic downturn.
“The decline in revenue is occurring when the need for county services and functions is skyrocketing for things like child protective services, emergency 911 assistance, law enforcement and emergency management, nutrition assistance programs, assistance for older Americans and affordable housing, all of which are becoming more complicated and costly to maintain,” the association said.
It went on to say that though the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress was very welcome, few counties will be able to access the funding under the language as written.
Instead, it says, the majority of aid to municipalities included in the stimulus bill will go to cities with populations above 500,000 and the states.
“Counties and other local governments below 500,000 are not even eligible for direct funding,” the association said.
Moving forward, the counties say they hope Congress will consider including a relief fund that is flexible and can be used to address lost revenue and supplement eligible personnel and administrative costs as a result of COVID-19 response.
In addition, the association asks the federal government to:
- Provide clear federal guidance on the distribution of personal protective equipment and essential medical equipment;
- Expand federal support for local Medicaid programs;
- Implement moratorium on Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation;
- Address an unfunded mandate included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act;
- Eliminate the Federal Emergency Management Agency non-federal cost share currently required under the presidential disaster declaration;
- Bolster counties’ ability to serve and protect their veterans;
- Pause public comment periods;
- Increase funding for the Social Services Block Grant;
- Increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits; and
- Restore advance refunding bonds;
- Ensure broadband is an option for everyone; and,
- Provide funding and flexibility for elections.
“Local governments are facing massive challenges in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and our resources are becoming more constrained by the day,” said Matthew Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties. “As you consider developing a fourth supplemental package, we hope that you will support our efforts to effectively implement containment and community mitigation strategies that will preserve the health and safety of our residents and local communities.”