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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 CassidyBottom line Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus MORE (R-La.) and Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Trump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency Senate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination 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 CollinsWhoopi Goldberg blasts Republicans not speaking against Trump: 'This is an attempted coup' Democrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Team Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters MORE (R-Maine), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinVoters split on eliminating the filibuster: poll OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (D-W.Va.), Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE (D-N.J.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) are co-sponsoring the Senate bill.

Reps. Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillOvernight Defense: Armed Services chairman unsold on slashing defense budget | Democratic Senate report details 'damage, chaos' of Trump foreign policy | Administration approves .8B Taiwan arms sales Democratic House chairman trusts Pentagon won't follow 'unlawful orders' on election involvement Overnight Defense: National Guard says no federal requests for election security help | Dems accuse VA head of misusing resources | Army official links COVID-19 to troop suicides 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) GottheimerDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Democrat Gottheimer wins reelection in New Jersey Cook Political Report shifts 8 more House races toward Democrats MORE (D-N.J.), Tom ReedTom ReedDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Bipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 MORE (R-N.Y.), Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Republican Michigan congressman: 'The people have spoken' GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics MORE (R-Mich.), Ted LieuTed W. LieuHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Mark Cuban asks voters to 'reconsider' donating to Georgia run-off elections MORE (D-Calif.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDivided citizenry and government — a call to action for common ground OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  Fitzpatrick wins reelection in Pennsylvania MORE (R-Pa.), Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellGM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards Ex-AG Holder urges GOP to speak against Trump efforts to 'subvert' election results McEnany disputes any Trump 'advocacy' with invite to Michigan lawmakers MORE (D-Mich.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikWomen of both parties must seize the momentum A louder voice for women everywhere Democrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains 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.