Counties Applaud Additional COVID Recovery Aid Flexibility in Bipartisan Senate Bill
WASHINGTON – After months of advocating for additional flexibility, the National Association of Counties (NACo) welcomed its inclusion in the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan supplemental COVID preparedness legislation announced last night.
The package includes a bill proposed by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), which codifies the flexibility in the U.S. Treasury’s final rule allowing counties to allocate up to $10 million in American Rescue Plan funding in general government services. It also allows counties to use up to 30 percent of recovery funds for eligible transportation projects, eligible Community Development Block Grant projects and disaster relief.
“Counties are deploying recovery funds to strengthen our communities and plan for the future,” said NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase. “With this additional flexibility, the true intent of the American Rescue Plan can be realized – to invest in our nation’s recovery on the ground, based on local priorities, circumstances and needs.”
America’s counties have been engaged in our nation’s response to COVID-19 since the earliest days and are investing federal aid in public health, human services, workforce development, small businesses, affordable housing, broadband, disaster preparedness and other pressing community needs.
“We thank Senators Cornyn and Padilla and Leader Schumer for securing this bipartisan legislation and urge the House to pass it,” said Chase.
While the additional flexibility is a significant win for counties as intergovernmental partners, the package includes a notable drawback. The text, as introduced, reduces the Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund authorized under the American Rescue Plan. The fund was designed specifically to provide greater stability for public lands counties with large tracts of untaxable federal public lands, but due to a drafting error in the American Rescue Plan, Treasury had not yet been able to allocate funds. The new bipartisan Senate legislation clarifies that the funds will be directed to over 1,900 counties currently receiving Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) from the federal government but cuts the total funding level from $1.5 billion to $826 million.