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Bipartisan Senate group offers new help to state, local governments

Bipartisan Senate group offers new help to state, local governments
© Bonnie Cash

A bipartisan group of senators are introducing a bill on Monday to provide hundreds of billions in new funding to state and local governments that have been hit hard by the spread of the coronavirus. 

The bill, spearheaded by Sens. Bill CassidyBill CassidyHow Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress Pelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals What the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship MORE (R-La.) and Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSchumer says Senate will vote on repealing 2002 war authorization The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Sanders drops bid to block Biden's Israel arms sale MORE (D-N.J.), would provide $500 billion in emergency funding, in addition to the $150 billion passed by Congress in March. 

The bill "is the commonsense, reasonable and bipartisan approach our frontline states and communities need to deliver them the necessary flexible funding to defeat COVID-19, maintain critical services, avoid mass layoffs and tax increases, and expedite our economic recovery," Menendez said in a statement.

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Cassidy added that state and local governments "lost billions in sales tax and other revenue" due to the coronavirus.  

"These states, communities either lay off workers or they get help. The SMART Act helps," Cassidy added, referring to the acronym for the State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act. 

In addition to Cassidy and Menendez, Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office Pelosi says she's giving Senate more time on Jan. 6 commission Overnight Energy: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process Wednesday | Bipartisan bill would ban 'forever chemicals' in cosmetics | Biden admin eyes step toward Trump-era proposal for uranium reserve MORE (R-Maine), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSen. Manchin paves way for a telehealth revolution Manchin meets with Texas lawmakers on voting rights Schumer tees up sweeping election bill for vote next week MORE (D-W.Va.), Cory BookerCory BookerZombie Tax punishes farmers to fill DC coffers Rand Paul does not support a national minimum wage increase — and it's important to understand why Absences force Senate to punt vote on Biden nominee MORE (D-N.J.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) are co-sponsoring the Senate bill.

Reps. Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillOvernight Energy: Climate emerges as infrastructure sticking point | US recovers millions in cryptocurrency paid to pipeline hackers | Chief scientist: NOAA is ' billion agency trapped in a .5 billion budget' Chief scientist: NOAA is ' billion agency trapped in a .5 billion budget' GOP lawmakers request briefing on Democrats' claims of 'suspicious' Capitol tours before Jan. 6 MORE (D-N.J.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.) are spearheading the House companion legislation, which is also being co-sponsored by Reps. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerOmar feuds with Jewish Democrats House moderates unveil .25T infrastructure plan Democrats debate shape of new Jan. 6 probe MORE (D-N.J.), Tom ReedTom ReedThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate path uncertain after House approves Jan. 6 panel Lawmakers brace for battles with colleagues as redistricting kicks off Hundreds of businesses sign on to support LGBTQ rights legislation MORE (R-N.Y.), Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonFauci: Emails highlight confusion about Trump administration's mixed messages early in pandemic Why Republican politicians are sticking with Trump Progressives nearly tank House Democrats' Capitol security bill MORE (R-Mich.), Ted LieuTed W. LieuGaetz, under investigative cloud, questions FBI director Crenshaw trolled after asking for examples of 'woke ideology' in military Kinzinger slams Gaetz speech: 'This is why we need a January 6 commission' MORE (D-Calif.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickFitness industry group hires new CEO amid lobbying push House moderates unveil .25T infrastructure plan OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden suspends Arctic oil leases issued under Trump |  Experts warn US needs to better prepare for hurricane season | Progressives set sights on Civilian Climate Corps MORE (R-Pa.), Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellOvernight Energy: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process Wednesday | Bipartisan bill would ban 'forever chemicals' in cosmetics | Biden admin eyes step toward Trump-era proposal for uranium reserve Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to ban 'forever chemicals' in cosmetics as study finds them prevalent Cosmetic chemicals need a makeover MORE (D-Mich.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikHouse fails to pass bill to promote credit fairness for LGTBQ-owned businesses GOP's Stefanik defends Trump DOJ secret subpoenas McCarthy pushes back on Biden criticism of GOP at NATO MORE (R-N.Y.). 

How to provide additional support to state and local governments has emerged as a point of contention in Congress. 

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The House's roughly $3 trillion bill passed on Friday provided almost $1 trillion for state and local governments. 

But Senate Republicans are divided. While some, like Cassidy, support providing more funding, others argue that Congress should just provide more flexibility for the $150 billion already appropriated. Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) for example has introduced legislation that would not give state and local governments more money but let them put money they received under the third coronavirus package toward revenue replacement. 

Other GOP senators oppose both more flexibility for states and more funding, advocating for a wait-and-see approach. 

Under the Cassidy-Menendez bill $16 billion will be set aside for Native American tribal governments. After that the rest of the funding would be divided up and allocated based on population size, infection rate and lost revenue.

The bill also eliminates a 500,000 population threshold for getting state and local coronavirus aid. Menendez and Cassidy initially proposed lowering the threshold to 50,000 before deciding to eliminate it altogether in the bill the two introduced. 

--Updated at 7:36 p.m.