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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 CassidyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump teases on 2024 run Trump rules out starting a new party: 'Fake news' Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate MORE (R-La.) and Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden holds off punishing Saudi crown prince, despite US intel Senate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador The Memo: Biden bets big on immigration 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 CollinsOn The Money: Tanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief | Relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority | Senate confirms Biden's picks for Commerce, top WH economist Tanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Senate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill MORE (R-Maine), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMurkowski never told White House she would oppose Tanden On The Money: Tanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief | Relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority | Senate confirms Biden's picks for Commerce, top WH economist Tanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief MORE (D-W.Va.), Cory BookerCory BookerWray says FBI not systemically racist BBC apologizes for interview with fake Cory Booker Democrats push Biden to include recurring payments in recovery package MORE (D-N.J.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) are co-sponsoring the Senate bill.

Reps. Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillTim Ryan: Prosecutors reviewing video of Capitol tours given by lawmakers before riot Calls grow for 9/11-style panel to probe Capitol attack Belfast's Troubles echo in today's Washington 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) GottheimerBipartisan lawmakers call for immediate vote on COVID-19 vaccine distribution package Lawmakers say they are 'targets,' ask to boost security New Jersey lawmakers press for SALT cap repeal in next relief package MORE (D-N.J.), Tom ReedTom ReedTaylor Swift celebrates House passage of Equality Act Here are the three GOP lawmakers who voted for the Equality Act House passes sweeping protections for LGBTQ people MORE (R-N.Y.), Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonHouse Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 Upton censured for vote to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene from Education Committee Is the 'civil war' in the Republican Party really over? MORE (R-Mich.), Ted LieuTed W. LieuPelosi, lawmakers denounce violence against Asian Americans Riot probe to likely focus on McCarthy-Trump call Progressives urge Biden pick for attorney general to prosecute Trump MORE (D-Calif.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickLawmakers offer gun control bill to end 'boyfriend loophole' Taylor Swift celebrates House passage of Equality Act Here are the three GOP lawmakers who voted for the Equality Act MORE (R-Pa.), Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellLawmakers offer gun control bill to end 'boyfriend loophole' Michigan Democrat Dingell on violent rhetoric: 'I've had men in front of my house with assault weapons' Dingell 'very concerned' about lowering threshold for stimulus MORE (D-Mich.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikCuomo asks New York AG to appoint independent attorney to investigate sexual harassment claims Psaki: Cuomo should face 'independent review' over sexual harassment allegations NY billboard calls for Cuomo's impeachment amid controversies 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.