Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Funding for Local, State Governments

May 18, 2020 Updated: May 19, 2020

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill on Monday to provide half a trillion in new funding to state and local governments in areas that have been hit hard by the CCP virus.

The legislation, dubbed the State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act, sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), aims to provide $500 billion in emergency funding to every state and county in the country, prioritizing assistance to the areas with the greatest need.

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.

“These states, communities either lay off workers or they get help.  The SMART Act helps.  The SMART Act keeps the thin blue line, firefighters and teachers from being casualties of Covid-19. It keeps our communities alive,” said Cassidy.

“This is a red white and blue pandemic. The coronavirus is apolitical. It does not attack Democrats or Republicans. It attacks Americans,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, in a joint statement issued May 13. “The nation’s governors are counting on our leaders in Washington to come together, put partisanship aside, and to get this done for the American people.”

The SMART Act is aimed at filling the gap from revenues lost due to the economic fallout triggered by the pandemic. Local government officials are saying that they would have to make cuts in essential services if they don’t receive funding, including laying of first-responders.

Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of The United States Conference of Mayors, said that new funding from Congress, “must include strong and flexible fiscal assistance that provides direct emergency relief to all cities and can be used to help mitigate budget shortfalls resulting from the pandemic.”

“Cities are on the frontlines of this crisis, and Washington’s response must rise to meet the tremendous challenge cities face in responding to both the public health crisis and its dire economic impacts,” Cochran, who served as a technologist under President Barack Obama, said.

Reps. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.) are championing the bill in the House of Representatives. The House version of the bill is being co-sponsored by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).

According to the provisions of the bill, $16 billion is set-aside for tribal governments, while the remaining funding would go to states through three equally divided payments; one-third based on states’ population, one-third based on infection rates, and the last third based on revenue loss due to government-imposed lockdowns.

“Providing federal relief for municipalities across the nation is critical to advancing the reopening of America and our national economic recovery, on which thousands of jobs and the livelihoods of American families depend,” Clarence Anthony, National League of Cities CEO and executive director, said.

King has been one of the most outspoken Republican congressmen on the federal government providing funding to state and local governments.