States Race to Offer Virus Aid 11/29 10:19
Faulting inaction in Washington, governors and state lawmakers are racing to
get pandemic relief to small-business owners, the unemployed, renters and
others whose livelihoods have been upended by the widening coronavirus outbreak.
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- Faulting inaction in Washington, governors and state
lawmakers are racing to get pandemic relief to small-business owners, the
unemployed, renters and others whose livelihoods have been upended by the
widening coronavirus outbreak.
In some cases, elected officials are spending the last of a federal relief
package passed in the spring as an end-of-year deadline approaches and the fall
COVID-19 surge threatens their economies anew. Democrats have been the most
vocal in criticizing President Donald Trump and the GOP-controlled Senate for
failing to act, but many Republican lawmakers are also sounding the alarm.
Underscoring the need for urgency, the number of new COVID-19 cases reported
in the United States reached 205,557 on Friday, according to data from Johns
Hopkins University -- the first time its daily figure topped the 200,000 mark.
Its previous daily high was 196,000 on Nov. 20.
The total number of cases reported in the U.S., since the first one in
January, has topped 13 million.
The Democratic governors of Colorado and New Mexico convened special
legislative sessions in the closing days of November to address the
virus-related emergency. Earlier this week, the New Mexico Legislature passed a
bipartisan relief bill that will deliver a one-time $1,200 check to all
unemployed workers and give up to $50,000 to certain businesses.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the state took action to help residents
"who have real issues about keeping food on their table, a roof over their
"While the United States of America is on fire, the Trump administration has
left states to fight this virus on their own," she said, noting state efforts
alone simply are not enough. "It is clear no help is coming --- not from this
president, not from this administration. As we have done every day this year,
New Mexico will step up."
In Colorado, a special session scheduled for Monday will consider roughly
$300 million in relief to businesses, restaurants and bars, child-care
providers, landlords, tenants, public schools and others.
"Even as cases have exploded across the country, Congress and the president
have not yet passed much-needed relief for people," Colorado Gov. Jared Polis
said in announcing the session. "Here in Colorado, we want to do the best with
what we have to take care of our own."
In New Jersey and Washington state, Republicans who are a minority in both
legislatures were the ones pushing for special sessions. They want to direct
more money to struggling small-business owners.
Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin, who control both houses of the
Legislature, are considering whether to return in December to address effects
of the latest coronavirus wave after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers put forward a
$500 million COVID-19 relief bill earlier this week. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a
Democrat, plans to convene lawmakers in December to contend with the virus,
partially at Republicans' urging.
"Senate Republicans are committed to recovering our economy that has been
harmed by broad and prolonged shutdowns," Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul
Gazelka said in a statement. "We will work with anyone to find solutions."
State government leaders want Trump and Congress to extend the Dec. 30
deadline for spending virus relief money already allocated under the CARES Act,
which was approved in March, and to provide more federal funding to deal with
the consequences of the latest surge.
"It's just heartbreaking what they're allowing to happen with no federal
government intervention," said Washington state House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, a
In making his decision to call the Minnesota Legislature into special
session, Walz cited "a sense of urgency" around doing something on the state
level due to the lack of a federal response.
The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits reported that more than half of the
state's charitable organizations received forgivable loans through the CARES
Act's Paycheck Protection Program this year, while another $12 million from the
CARES Act is going to organizations that provide food to the needy. But all
that will be spent --- or lost --- by the end of December without congressional
"I would reiterate to our federal partners --- to the outgoing
administration and to the incoming Biden administration --- please work
together, please find a compromise in there, please. If you have to, move a
package now with the idea that you will come back and move one later," Walz
said. "COVID is not going to end at the end of the month. We are in an
In Ohio, where Republicans control every branch of government, Gov. Mike
DeWine and legislative leaders pushed a $420 million pandemic spending package
through a special bipartisan panel late last month. Funded through the CARES
Act, it offered grants to small businesses, bars and restaurants, low-income
renters, arts groups, and colleges and universities.
Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, a Republican, gives
credit to the federal government for the billions in aid previously sent out,
but he said small businesses and people who have lost work need more federal
"The election's over," Benninghoff said. "This is not a time for
In neighboring New Jersey, the partisan divide over $4 billion in COVID-19
borrowing backed by the Democratic governor and Legislature prompted a court
challenge by minority Republicans. The state's high court sided with Gov. Phil
Murphy's administration, citing the unprecedented nature of the outbreak.
Even so, Murphy has regularly pleaded with Congress for more aid.
"It's shameful that they have not acted in Congress, especially (Senate
Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell and the Republican Senate, to throw a lifeline
to small businesses," he said.
Republicans have proposed a $300 million aid package to small businesses and
nonprofits, but the legislation is stalled. GOP lawmakers told the governor if
he does not call a special session to address the need, many businesses and
charities "might not survive the winter."
Having already committed the bulk of their virus relief allotment, lawmakers
in one state, Illinois, were forced to end the year with an unaddressed $3.9
billion budget deficit. They canceled what would be their regular fall session
in November, citing the health threat posed by the virus, and expressed hope
for help from the nation's capital when they return.
"If the federal government doesn't stand up and step in, we're in a very bad
situation --- for our schools, colleges and universities, health care programs,
child care, senior services," House Majority Leader Greg Harris, a Democrat,
said. "This isn't like all the blue states are hurting and all the red states
are humming along. Everybody's in bad shape."