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Mayors, Governors Have Clout

Millions of American families and scores of thousands of businesses are nearing the ends of their financial ropes because of COVID-19. Yet I have heard of not a single local or state government in desperate financial straits because of the epidemic.

Liberals in Congress continue to insist that a new CARES Act include funding some states and cities need to cover mistakes prior to and not linked to the epidemic. What’s wrong with this picture? I suspect you had no trouble answering that question.

It has been two weeks since a coalition of lawmakers, led by U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, proposed a $908 billion bill to provide new relief to those suffering financially from COVID-19. Let me be clear about the Manchin-Collins bipartisan coalition: Not one of them likes everything that is in — or not in — the bill. Political realities dictated some of the contents. Lawmakers who crafted the measure deserve enormous credit for compromising.

Among political realities included in the proposal is $160 billion for state, local and tribal governments. How many really need the money because of COVID-19? You’ve been reading the paper. You know that some local governments already in receipt of CARES Act money are spending it for things that have nothing to do with the epidemic. Some states, including West Virginia, haven’t used all the CARES Act funds from last spring. Give their governors and legislators credit for holding onto the money, though. They know they may need it later this winter.

But many families and businesses need help right now. The Manchin-Collins plan would provide $288 billion for small businesses. It also includes $180 billion for unemployment insurance. Good.

But what about those who had hours or days cut out of their work schedules, but don’t qualify for unemployment benefits? Don’t they need help at least as much as state and local governments? Direct payments such as the $1,200 per person most Americans received from the original CARES Act would help them. But funding for that purpose isn’t in the compromise bill.

Why not shift the $160 billion for state and local governments over to provide direct payments to families? Because mayors, governors and legislators who have spent decades spending their cities and states into oceans of red ink wouldn’t stand for it. They want bailouts.

The political reality, then, is that the mayors and governors have to be kept happy. As for the millions of American families who could make good use of direct payments … hey, election season is over for this year.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.


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