Connecting state and local government leaders
They and others say that with the costs of responding to the coronavirus outbreak stacking up for states, the federal government should do more to help.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency should fully pay emergency coronavirus response costs it is now sharing with states, a growing chorus of governors and mostly Democratic lawmakers in Congress is arguing.
A group of 27 U.S. senators, all Democrats, except for Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, were among the latest to press the White House on the issue in a letter on Thursday. They, like others, are asking President Trump to direct FEMA to increase the federal cost share from 75% to 100% for emergency work tied to the pandemic response.
“As the pandemic continues to spread,” the letter says, “states are increasingly being put in impossible positions.”
“Many state governments are slashing budgets and implementing layoffs at a time when Americans need support more than ever,” it adds. “These reductions are unsustainable and dangerous, and only the federal government has the capability to alleviate these concerns.”
The bipartisan National Governors Association sent a letter earlier this month to the White House making a similar request.
U.S. Sens. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, and Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, took the lead on the Senate letter sent Thursday. Peters’ home state governor, Gretchen Whitmer in an April 16 letter asked FEMA to waive cost share requirements.
Whitmer’s letter said that, as of April 15, Michigan had spent over $234 million on costs associated with a state emergency operations center and other coronavirus-response activities.
“This crisis is ongoing and evolving, and our state resources are already strained,” the letter says. It also points out that initial estimates suggested that the state’s revenues could be down by about $3 billion in the current 2020 fiscal year and by another $4 billion in fiscal 2021.
The requests for increased cost-sharing come amid a broader debate that is playing out over how much more the federal government should do to help states with the budget pressure they’re facing as a result of the virus and the economic crash it has caused.
Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.