Blue Dogs Back Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Provide State, Local Funding, Urge Leadership to Include in Fifth COVID-19 Relief Package
Sep 28, 2020
WASHINGTON—Today, the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition announced its endorsement bipartisan, bicameral legislation to provide robust support to state and local governments on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act will provide $500 billion in emergency funding to every state, county and community in the country, while prioritizing assistance to the areas with the greatest need.
The legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Task Force on Infrastructure and Job Creation. The State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Fund will enhance the $150 billion Congress provided to assist state and local governments in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, adding an additional $500 billion in funding. The additional federal support answers the call of the country’s governors, county officials, and local mayors who have been working around the clock to address the public health and the economic threat of COVID-19. It eliminates the current 500,000 resident population threshold, allowing every state, county, municipality, U.S. territory and the District of Columbia to qualify for direct federal assistance, regardless of its size.
The Blue Dog Coalition was the first House Democratic caucus to call on House and Senate leadership to restart bipartisan negotiations on a fifth COVID-19 relief package in an August 21 letter. The Blue Dogs have consistently called for bipartisan legislation that includes the following priorities: 1) an extension of unemployment insurance benefits; 2) measures to keep workers tethered to their jobs; 3) support for state, local, and tribal governments, K-12 schools, and institutions of higher education; 4) a second round of economic impact payments; and 5) stronger oversight of pandemic response spending. Following the August 21 letter, the Blue Dogs endorsed the “March to Common Ground” framework, which was developed by members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus (PSC) in order to help break the gridlock on a fifth COVID-19 relief package, and included several bipartisan priorities backed by the Blue Dogs.
“We’re asking schools to invest millions in remote learning. Public transit authorities are overhauling their cleaning programs to meet new sanitation needs. Small businesses continue to need support as we grapple with the economic impact of the pandemic. State and local governments need support to help people get back on their feet and stay healthy,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Task Force on Infrastructure and Job Creation and House sponsor of the SMART Act. “Federal assistance to states is the fiscally responsible solution to this challenge, and I appreciate the Blue Dog Coalition’s support of the bipartisan SMART Act, which will empower our towns, counties, cities, and states with the resources they need to help stem the spread of COVID and help our economy recover.”
“Across Upstate New York and the country, our rural communities are hurting. Schools, law enforcement, and other essential services are facing steep cuts. Washington needs to act. The SMART Act will get our state and local governments the relief they need and lift the burdensome Washington restrictions that are hurting our small cities, towns, and counties,” said Rep. Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), the Blue Dog Coalition’s Co-Chair for Whip and Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Task Force on Economic Growth. “The response to COVID-19 needs to be above partisan politics and the Blue Dog Coalition is committed to advancing bipartisan solutions that can help. The SMART Act will do just that.”
"Our county and town budgets are being stretched to the max, with local municipalities facing serious revenue shortfalls and budget gaps because of the pandemic’s impact on economic activity in North Jersey, where we were in the eye of the COVID storm early on. That's why I've been fighting since day one to claw federal resources back to each county and community in my District — to help pay for our teachers, law enforcement, EMS, and firefighters," said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Task Force on Economic Growth and an original cosponsor of the SMART Act. "I'm proud that the Blue Dogs are endorsing this bipartisan, bicameral legislation which I helped introduce with Senator Menendez, so that we can get the backs of all those who serve our communities."