July 24, 2020

Wyden, Merkley Press for Significant New, Flexible Funding for State and Local Governments in COVID-19 Response

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley this week joined U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and 34 other colleagues to urge Senate Republican leadership to support significant, new and flexible funding for state and local governments in Oregon and across the nation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., requesting that he support the funding amount and flexibility for state and local governments that was included in the HEROES Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The funding includes $500 billion for states, $375 billion for local governments and $20 billion each for territories and Tribal lands.

“Providing additional funds to state and local governments will ensure that jurisdictions have the financial resources to fund first responders, and the life-saving work done in our public hospitals and by public health departments in communities large and small. Existing funding is not enough for jurisdictions grappling with these extraordinary shortfalls. Governors of both parties may be forced to balance their budgets by cutting education funding for thousands of school districts and slashing funding to support the millions of Americans who reside in nursing homes or receive care in home and community-based settings,” the senators wrote. “It is essential that the federal government provide fiscal support for those who are responding directly to and are most affected by this unprecedented health and economic crisis.”

As state and local governments in Oregon and nation-wide report anticipated cuts to their budgets, services such as public schools, social services and health departments face the brunt of the pain. Local and state governments expect cuts in services to local health departments which employ essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as child welfare workers, social workers, firefighters and more employees. Many county and state governments have been forced to furlough workers due to the pandemic, and without funding, these furloughs could become permanent job losses. Decreased local government spending may lead to a $344 billion decrease in economic output and 4.9 million fewer jobs.

Wyden, Merkley and Casey were joined by U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Chris Coons, D-Del., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Gary Peters, D-Mich., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Doug Jones, D-Ala., Angus King, I-Maine, Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Tom Udall, D-N.M.

A copy of the letter is available here.