Members of the National Governors Association (NGA) called for Congress to pass an additional $500 billion relief bill to stabilize states and territories, which they say are in “dire straits” from the pandemic-driven economic fallout.
In a letter signed by NGA Chairman Larry Hogan, Republican governor of Maryland, and NGA Vice Chairman Andrew Cuomo, Democrat governor of New York, leaders of the association outlined the damage to local economies from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease.
“As governors, we prioritize the health and welfare of our citizens above all other considerations. In response to the crisis and to ensure the safety of our citizens, we closed non-essential businesses, limited large gatherings, and implemented stay-at-home orders. We did not make these decisions lightly. As a result, our national and local economies are in dire straits and have resulted in the most dramatic contraction of the U.S. economy since World War II,” the leaders wrote.
“Many states are already reporting precipitous declines in revenues that fund state services in health care, education, public safety, transportation, and other vital programs,” states the letter, which was sent on April 21, the day the Senate passed a $483.4 billion economic relief measure that would replenish the popular small business loan program that has run out of money and boost funding for hospitals to ramp up COVID-19 testing. The Senate’s voice vote sends the bill back to the House for final passage, expected to take place on Thursday.
President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the measure, called the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, on Tuesday, saying he would sign it when it reaches his desk. Trump said in a separate tweet that additional items left out of the bill, like payroll tax cuts, infrastructure initiatives, and fiscal relief to state and local governments for lost revenues from COVID-19, could be included in the next round of aid.
In the letter, the governors call on Senate and House leaders of both parties to adopt measures that include direct federal aid of $500 billion to states and territories for replacement of lost revenue.
“These continuing losses will force states and territories not only to make drastic cuts to the programs we depend on to provide economic security, educational opportunities, and public safety, but the national economic recovery will be dramatically hampered,” the governors argued.
They also called for a temporary increase in Federal Medical Assistance Percentages from 6.2 percent to 12 percent, greater access to personal protective equipment and medical supplies, and enhancements to unemployment insurance, citing the “record 22 million Americans [that] have applied for unemployment in the past three weeks.”
The letter comes amid mounting calls for governors to ease restrictions that have stifled economic activity and driven up unemployment.
Before lockdowns can be lifted, however, testing will need to be ramped up, the governors said in the letter.
“Before governors consider relaxing social distancing measures to protect against reoccurrence of COVID-19 cases, states will need to significantly expand diagnostic and antibody testing capacity which includes an essential public health infrastructure to support contact tracing, surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, workforce, and community partnerships,” Hogan and Cuomo wrote in the letter.