NLC 3/26 Update: Federal Action on COVID-19 (CARES Act and More)

Last night, just before midnight, the Senate passed the CARES Act, H.R. 748, the third stimulus bill. Click here to view a summary of the bill.

Action now moves to the House of Representatives. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced the House will vote on the bill Friday. The House will not try to pass it by unanimous consent. Instead, it will pass it by a voice vote. The member presiding over the House, who will be designated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will decide if enough members voted in the affirmative to pass the bill, which will almost certainly happen.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last night said the Senate will not have any votes until April 20 but will remain “nimble.” This move essentially forces the House to pass the CARES Act as is.

The CARES Act provides local governments funding to meet the immediate needs of residents, households, and small businesses on the economic margins. NLC applauds Congress for advancing a bill that does much to meet the needs of Main Street, in addition to traditional economic protections for Wall Street.

Although the CARES Act provides for many of the immediate needs of municipal governments to prevent economic decline, for the governments themselves and their residents, we think that it will prove to be insufficient for intermediate and long term economic stabilization. Especially for legacy cities and other communities that never sufficiently recovered from the previous recession caused by the housing bubble.

The Coronavirus Relief Fund established under the CARES Act will primarily help states, and the potential impact on local budgets is largely unknown at this point because Governors will have maximum flexibility to allocate resources from the fund as they see fit.

We are encouraged that Speaker Pelosi is also thinking ahead to a possible 4th Emergency Supplemental Appropriations and Stimulus bill. This could be considered in tandem with the annual FY2021 spending bills. For local governments, at a minimum, the 4th bill should:

  • Allocate federal funding directly to cities and towns for local budget relief, and any population threshold for direct funding should be as low as possible, but not above 50,000.
  • Approve additional supplementary funding to put residents impacted financially by the COVID-19 response on the path of economic mobility, to the greatest extent possible.
  • Use this as an opportunity to reduce regulatory burdens and unfunded mandates on local government.
  • Provide governmental employers the access to tax credits for the paid sick and paid emergency leave that they are required to provide to employees.

A poll for the National League of Cities, conducted by Morning Consult, asked 2200+ Americans about how they support the tough decisions local leaders are making in their cities and how their communities are receiving them. Here are some of the key findings from the survey:

Americans support the tough choices local leaders are making

  • 82% of Americans support closing public facilities
  • 83% of Americans support banning/cancelling large gatherings
  • 78% of Americans support closing restaurants and bars
  • 84% of Americans support encouraging employers to require employees to work remotely
  • 85% of Americans support mandating employers to provide emergency paid sick leave
  • 86% of Americans support the federal government providing funds directly to cities and towns to support coronavirus challenges in local communities

Across the board, Americans rate the response to Coronavirus from State and Local governments as strong.

Positive response to coronavirus:

  • Local government – 52%
  • State government – 55%
  • Federal government – 47%

Residents want local leaders to use their dollars to make a difference

  • 86% support local governments funding control methods of COVID-19
  • 80% support local governments providing funding to control the spread of COVID-19, even if it means raising taxes
  • 86% support local governments putting money towards those in their community most vulnerable.
  • 81% support local governments putting money towards supporting those in your community most affected by the coronavirus, even if it means raising taxes.

Ideology doesn’t matter. All Americans support local governments putting additional funds towards supporting those most affected by Coronavirus, EVEN if it means RAISING local taxes.

  • 87% of Democrats support
  • 86% of Republicans support
  • 72% of Independents support

86% of Americans support the federal government providing funds DIRECTLY to cities and towns to support coronavirus challenges in local communities.

Irma Esparza Diggs
Senior Executive and Director, Federal Advocacy
National League of Cities