Despite Modest Assistance For Local Governments, Counties Disappointed that Congress Neglected Public Sector Frontline Workers
WASHINGTON – The final coronavirus relief and omnibus appropriations package of the 116th Congress includes some modest policy priorities for America’s counties, but does not include critical aid to state and local governments on the front lines of the nation’s response to the pandemic.
The National Association of Counties (NACo) expressed disappointment in the legislation, which fails frontline COVID-19 responders and county residents. Calling on Congress to pass a bipartisan coronavirus relief package that provides aid to counties, NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase said:
America’s counties remain on the front lines of this pandemic, addressing community health and human services needs, distributing vaccines and dealing with an economy on life support.
“Our message today is the same as it has been since the beginning of this pandemic: a coronavirus relief package without aid for state and local governments fails counties and our residents, whose lives and livelihoods are on the line.
“As the level of government with vast public health, safety, economic and other community responsibilities, our efforts in fighting COVID-19 have resulted in massive budgetary effects – as much as $202 billion through FY2021. Many counties’ revenues are down, and our expenses are up.
“Counties have made difficult decisions to cut services and job-creating capital projects all while confronting challenges with testing, contact tracing and vaccine distribution planning. Additionally, local governments have lost 1 million jobs since the pandemic began.
“County leaders are committed to working with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and the administration to secure direct, flexible and equitable funding for counties of all sizes, so that together, we can protect the health of our residents and our economy.”
The omnibus appropriations package includes a few provisions for which NACo has advocated. Specifically, counties welcome:
- A one-year extension of the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CFR) deadline, providing much-needed time and flexibility to address the ongoing impacts of this crisis
- $22 billion for health-related expenses of state, local, tribal and territorial governments
- $27 billion for state highways, transit agencies, Amtrak and airports
- $25 billion for a new Emergency Federal Rental Assistance Program
- Passage of the Broadband Data Act, which will help identify areas of the country with limited access to broadband
- $13 billion for nutrition assistance, food banks and senior nutrition programs
Chase continued, “We call on the next Congress and President-elect Biden to enact a bipartisan coronavirus relief package that delivers direct, flexible federal aid to counties of all sizes.”
NACo developed a full analysis of the final coronavirus relief and omnibus appropriations package, available here.
America’s 3,069 county governments support over 1,900 local public health departments, nearly 1,000 hospitals and critical access clinics, more than 800 long-term care facilities and 750 behavioral health centers.
Additionally, county governments are responsible for emergency operations centers and 911 services, court and jail management, public safety and emergency response, protective services for children, seniors and veterans, and the “last of the first responders” with coroners and medical examiners, among many other essential public services.
NACo’s coronavirus online hub includes county level examples of response efforts, interactive maps and analyses of federal actions. View this resource-rich webpage at www.naco.org/coronavirus.