On September 28, the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled a $2.2 trillion coronavirus response package as part of a final effort to secure new aid before the November 3 elections. The new bill, which could get a floor vote later this week, is an updated version of the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act (H.R. 6800) the U.S. House passed in May.
If enacted, the scaled-back measure would provide $1,200 relief checks to those who received a check in the spring, reauthorize the small-business lending program, bring back the $600 federal boost to the unemployment benefit through January and provide assistance for the airline industry.
Of key importance to counties, the bill would provide $89.5 billion in direct and flexible funding to counties through new State and Local Coronavirus Relief Funds. This new funding can be used for COVID-related expenses, to replace lost revenues, or to respond to negative economic impacts of COVID-19. Additionally, the new funds are not attached to a spending deadline providing flexibility over the next several years.
The legislation would also makes two significant retroactive changes to the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) authorized under the CARES Act that counties support including, expanding the use of those funds cover lost, delayed, or decreased revenue stemming from the COVID public health emergency and extends the date of expenditure for CARES funds to December 31, 2021.
Although the revised package represents a potential compromise between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the U.S. Senate has already indicated the bill is still too costly and the White House has sought to hold the funding to a lower level.
NACo continues to work with our federal partners in both Congress and the administration to secure direct funds for counties of all sizes who are facing unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19.