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 CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyStimulus checks debate now focuses on size, eligibility On The Money: GDP shrinks by record amount in second quarter amid virus lockdowns | Jobless claims rise for second straight week | McConnell tees up fight on unemployment benefits GOP senators propose stimulus checks of ,000 for both adults and children MORE (R-La.) and Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezVOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage Bottom line Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads 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 CollinsObama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  On The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP MORE (R-Maine), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Defense: Embattled Pentagon policy nominee withdraws, gets appointment to deputy policy job | Marines, sailor killed in California training accident identified | Governors call for extension of funding for Guard's coronavirus response House-passed spending bill would block Pebble Mine construction The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - At loggerheads, Congress, White House to let jobless payout lapse MORE (D-W.Va.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerUSAID appointee alleges 'rampant anti-Christian sentiment' at agency OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA rule extends life of toxic coal ash ponds | Flint class action suit against Mich. officials can proceed, court rules | Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill MORE (D-N.J.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) are co-sponsoring the Senate bill.

Reps. Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillOcasio-Cortez, Democrats blast GOP on House floor for 'culture' of sexism The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Facebook — Fauci touts COVID-19 vaccine news Cash-strapped cities hammered by COVID-19 beg for federal help 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) GottheimerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Florida's coronavirus surge raises questions about GOP convention New Jersey Rep. Gottheimer wins House primary New Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries MORE (D-N.J.), Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedHouse approves two child care bills aimed at pandemic Diabetes Caucus co-chairs say telehealth expansion to continue beyond pandemic The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin previews GOP coronavirus relief package MORE (R-N.Y.), Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks The Hill's Coronavirus Report: iBIO Chairman and CEO Thomas Isett says developing a safe vaccine is paramount; US surpasses 150,000 coronavirus deaths with roughy one death per minute The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Fred Upton says it is 'tragic' to see Americans reject masks, social distancing; Russia claims it will approve COVID-19 vaccine by mid-August MORE (R-Mich.), Ted LieuTed W. LieuGOP official says Elizabeth Warren 'endorses voter fraud' after joke about Bailey voting for Biden Milley confirms soldiers deployed to DC amid unrest were given bayonets Trump campaign touts 4M online viewers for Tulsa rally MORE (D-Calif.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. Fitzpatrick2020 Global Tiger Day comes with good news, but Congress still has work to do How Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 Overnight Energy: House passes major conservation bill, sending to Trump | EPA finalizes rule to speed up review of industry permits MORE (R-Pa.), Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellCourt orders release of Black Michigan teen who was jailed for missing schoolwork Lobbying world Great American Outdoors Act will deliver critical investments to our national parks, forests MORE (D-Mich.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikHouse Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections The 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Obama reunite for socially distanced conversation 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.