Health Care

Bipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package

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A pair of bipartisan governors are calling on Congress to pass a coronavirus relief package as negotiations heat up on Capitol Hill. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), the chair and vice chair of the National Governors Association, said in a joint statement they were “heartened” that talks had ramped up and that Congress should pass a $908 billion relief package proposed by a group of bipartisan, moderate senators and House members as an “interim measure.”

“Even as COVID-19 vaccine trials show remarkable results and the pandemic finish line is in sight, the danger the virus poses has never been greater. Today our country is seeing record-high cases, hospitalizations and deaths — every single state has been affected,” they said.

“It is time for Washington to step up and deliver desperately needed relief for their constituents. Governors are heartened that congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers are now talking with each other to find a way forward,” they wrote. “We encourage leadership to stay at the bargaining table and work out a deal that delivers the critical relief to the American people.”

The package Cuomo and Hutchinson endorsed Friday, which was unveiled earlier this week, includes another $160 billion for states and cities — a top priority for Democrats — $180 billion for unemployment insurance and $288 billion for more small business assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program. 

It also would provide billions in assistance for transportation-related industries, $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution and more money for schools, child care, the Postal Service and more.

Cuomo and Hutchinson noted that governors have been leading the way in combatting the pandemic’s spread, but said that a national crisis needs a national solution to be passed before Congress’s upcoming recess.

“Governors have been on the front lines since the beginning of the pandemic, procuring lifesaving medical and personal protective equipment, establishing field hospitals, and providing economic relief to small businesses and workers. But this is a national crisis, cutting across geographic, economic and demographic lines, and it demands a national, bipartisan solution,” they said. “Congress should not leave Washington for the holiday recess without enacting a much-needed COVID relief package.”

Congress has struggled for months to come to an agreement on a new relief package since passing a $2.2 trillion package in March, but negotiations got a shot in the arm after the package was unveiled.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) endorsed the plan as the basis for COVID-19 relief talks, a retreat from the $2.2 trillion basis they’d previously stuck to, and Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spoke Thursday about reaching a COVID-19 relief deal before Christmas. 

President-elect Joe Biden also urged Congress to pass the compromise legislation.

The renewed energy behind talks comes as a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the country and the looming expiration of unemployment benefits apply ramped up pressure for lawmakers to come to some kind of agreement.

More than 210,000 new coronavirus cases were tallied Friday alone, and the total number of hospitalizations reached a new high of over 100,000.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Andrew Cuomo Asa Hutchinson Asa Hutchinson CARES Act Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Joe Biden Mitch McConnell Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Nancy Pelosi U.S. federal government response to the COVID-19 pandemic

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