More Money For Smaller, Local Governments Could Come In Next Coronavirus Relief Package

Closed Signs In Colorado Springs During Coronavirus
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Signs from the continuing lockdown on non-essential businesses because of coronavirus, in Colorado Springs, Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday revealed a bit of House Democrats’ plans when it comes to the next coronavirus relief package: more aid for state and local governments, and more funding for smaller municipalities.

State and local leaders in Colorado have been calling for more federal aid as they respond to COVID-19. The last $2.2 trillion aid packaged included $150 billion to state and local governments, but only local governments with populations of 500,000 or more received aid directly.

“What are our plan is now is to have two separate — maybe even three —state, county and municipality,” Pelosi said Wednesday. “And we could take it all the way down…to [populations of] 10,000 and fewer.”

The Colorado congressional delegation has been particularly active on this front. With more than 150 co-sponsors, Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse introduced legislation earlier this month that would provide $250 billion to local communities in aid and remove the 500,000 population cap.

Republican Rep. Ken Buck led a delegation letter asking Congressional leaders to do away with the population cap, and Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet teamed up with Gov. Jared Polis to write Senate leadership about providing flexible fiscal relief.

Flexible fiscal relief is another issue that Pelosi indicated her caucus would support.  She stressed the aid to state and local government will be for the coronavirus, but “in terms of what they spent on the coronavirus and what their revenue loss is” from their coronavirus response.  She said that is “essential” to survival of state, county and municipal governments, as well as hospitals. 

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, however, may have a narrower view of what the aid should be used for. And he may try tying state and local aid to a priority for Republicans.

“Before we start sending additional money down to states and localities, I want to make sure that we protect the people we've already sent assistance to, who are going to be set up for an avalanche of lawsuits if we don't act,” McConnell said in a statement.

But for Democratic Minority Whip James Clyburn, the main thing he wants to see in any additional state and local aid package is that local governments get the help that they need, and that it isn’t hung up at the state level. The South Carolina Democrat noted that members need “to remember it didn’t say or local, it said and local.”