Without Washington’s action, states will compete for virus support

SANTA FE, NM (AP) – Faulty inaction In Washington, governors and state lawmakers are competing for epidemic relief for small business owners, the unemployed, tenants and others whose livelihoods are being eradicated by the widening coronavirus epidemic.

In some cases, elected officials are spending the last tranche of the federal aid package adopted in the spring as the year-end deadline approaches and the fall of COVID-19 threatens their economy again. Democrats have loudly criticized President Donald Trump and the GOP-controlled Senate for their failure, but many Republican lawmakers are also sounding the alarm.

Emphasizing the need for urgency, the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States on Friday reached 205,557 cases on Friday, the first time that daily data has exceeded 200,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. Its previous daily peak was 196,000 on November 20th.

The number of cases reported in the United States has exceeded 13 million since the first case in January.

Democratic governors in Colorado and New Mexico convened separate legislative sessions in the last days of November to address the virus-related emergency. Earlier this week, New Mexican lawmakers passed a bipartisan aid bill that would send a one-time $ 1,200 check to all unemployed workers and give up to $ 50,000 to certain businesses.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said the state has taken action for residents who “have real problems keeping food on their tables, roof over their heads”.

“While the United States is on fire, the Trump administration has left states to fight this virus on their own,” he said, noting that state efforts alone are not enough. “Obviously, no help is coming – neither from this president nor from this administration. As we have done every day this year, New Mexico will intensify its position. “

In a separate meeting scheduled for Monday in Colorado, roughly $ 300 million will be considered for help from businesses, restaurants and bars, childcare providers, landlords, tenants, public schools and others.

“Even when things exploded across the country, Congress and the president had not yet provided the people with the help they needed so much,” Colorado Governor Jared Polis said when the meeting was announced. “Here in Colorado, we want to do our best with what we need to take care of our own.”

In New Jersey and Washington, Republicans who are in a minority in both legislatures have called for special sessions. They want to manage more money for hard-earning small business owners.

Wisconsin Republican lawmakers overseeing both houses of the legislature are considering returning to address the effects of the latest coronavirus wave in December after Democratic Governor Tony Evers presented a $ 500 million COVID-19 aid bill earlier this week. Minnesota governor Tim Walz, a Democrat and partly urging Republicans, plans to convene lawmakers in December to fight the virus.

“Senate Republicans are committed to restoring our economy, which has been damaged by widespread and prolonged shutdowns,” said Paul Minnesota, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. “We’re working with anyone to find solutions.”

State government leaders want Trump and Congress to extend the December 30 deadline for spending virus care money already allocated under the CARES Act, passed on March 30, and provide more federal support to address the consequences of the latest wave.

“The only heartbreaking thing is what is allowed to happen without the intervention of the federal government,” said Laurie Jinkins, a Democrat in Washington.

When he called the Minnesota legislature for an extraordinary session, Walz referred to a “sense of urgency” to do something at the state level because of a lack of a federal response.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits reported that more than half of the state’s charities this year received repayable loans through the CARES Act’s payment control program, while an additional $ 12 million from the CARES Act goes to organizations that provide food to those in need. But all of this will be avoided – or lost – by the end of December without congressional action.

“I would like to reiterate to our federal partners – the outgoing administration and the incoming Biden administration – please work together, please find a compromise there. If you have to, move a package now with the idea of ​​coming back later and moving one, Walz said. “COVID will not end at the end of the month. We are in a ruthless spike. “

In Ohio, where Republicans control every branch of government, Governor Mike DeWine and legislative leaders pushed a $ 420 million epidemic spending package through a special bipartisan body late last month. CARES-funded grants have been offered to small businesses, bars and restaurants, low-income tenants, arts groups, colleges and universities.

Kerry Benningoff, the majority leader of the Republican Pennsylvania House, is giving credit to the federal government for the billionaire support he sent out earlier, but he says small businesses and people who have lost their jobs need more federal help.

“The election is over,” Benninghoff said. “It’s not time to point the finger.”

In neighboring New Jersey, partisans hand out a $ 4 billion COVID-19 loan backed by the democratic governor and legislature, and minority Republicans launched a court attack. The state’s highest court sided with Governor Phil Murphy’s government, citing the unprecedented nature of the epidemic.

Nevertheless, Murphy regularly appealed to Congress for further assistance.

“It’s a shame they didn’t act in Congress, especially (Senate Majority Leader, Mitch), McConnell and the Republican Senate to throw a lifeline to small businesses,” he said.

Republicans have proposed a $ 300 million support package for small businesses and nonprofits, but legislation has stalled. GOP lawmakers have told the governor that if he does not convene a special meeting to meet the demand, many businesses and charities “cannot survive the winter”.

In one state, Illinois, lawmakers shook hands and went home despite a $ 3.9 billion budget deficit. They cite the health threat posed by the virus and hope to get help from the country’s capital.

“If the federal government doesn’t stand up and step in, we’re in a very bad position – for our schools, colleges and universities, our health programs, our childcare, our senior services,” said Greg Harris, the House’s majority leader, Democrat, he said. “It’s not like all the blue states hurt and all the red states hum all the way through. Everyone is in bad shape.


Carr Smyth reported from Columbus, Ohio. Jim Anderson and Patricia Nieberg, associate press writer in Denver; Michael Catalini in Newark, New Jersey; Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis; Rachel La Corte, Olympia, Wash.; Geoff Mulvihill in Davenport, Iowa; John O’Connor in Springfield, Ill. and Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg (Pa.) contributed to this report.


Nieberg and Attanasio are members of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newspapers to report on covered issues.