WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday the next coronavirus stimulus package will include federal funding for hard-hit cities and states “in a big way,” a promise that came as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was less committal about the level of aid.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other governors in states grappling with high COVID-19 infection rates have been calling on Congress for weeks to provide direct funding to states that have spent large sums securing supplies and ramping up testing for their citizens.
Cuomo and others had pressed Congress to include state and local aid in the recently passed fourth stimulus bill that provided $484 billion of additional aid for small businesses, hospitals and increased testing, but that measure went ahead without adding local relief as lawmakers said the priority of that rescue package was to rapidly replenish the small business loan program known as the Paycheck Protection Program.
Pelosi (D-Calif.), appearing on CNN's "State of the Union" said not including funding for state and local governments in the most recent legislation “wasn't a concession,” and said a fifth stimulus package, dubbed CARES 2, will include state and local aid “in a big way."
Asked about Cuomo’s recent remarks that he “would have insisted that state and local funding was in this current bill,” Pelosi told host Jake Tapper: “Just calm down. We will have state and local [aid], and we will have it in a very significant way. It's no use going on to what might have been.”
"The governors are impatient,” Pelosi said. “I'm a big fan of Governor Cuomo ... They should be impatient. Their impatience will help us get an even bigger number.”
Mnuchin, asked by “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace whether the Trump Administration supported providing states with $500 billion in relief to pay for “first responders and other workers,” said “it will be something we discuss on a bipartisan basis” with the House and the Senate.
“The president has heard from governors, he wants to speak to governors” Mnuchin said. “This is something we’ll consider, but our focus right now is on execution.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has come out against providing states with money, suggesting they should declare bankruptcy as an option.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a statement Sunday, said funding for states and municipalities is not an abstract concept. "It’s what prevents the layoffs across New York and the country of police officers, bus drivers, firefighters, teachers, sanitation workers and in many cases hospital and other health care workers as well."
"If Senator McConnell and the Senate Republicans are for saving these vital jobs, they should act like it," said Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Appearing on the Sunday political talk show circuit, state governors from some of the hardest-hit states said they were hopeful that funding for state and local governments would be incorporated into the next stimulus package.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said on ABC's "This Week" that a "default" is not an option for her state, adding that "it’s outrageous for Senator McConnell to even suggest that.”
Whitmer, speaking to McConnell’s assertions that relief would amount to a “blue-state bailout” only helping states controlled by Democrats, said Michigan officials had not been wasteful in their spending and “have been incredibly smart stewards.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said on "This Week," that the National Governors Association has been pushing a bipartisan effort to make sure that $500 billion will go to state governments. Hogan said “it was very close to happening” in the fourth relief bill, but “Senator McConnell blocked it.”
"We're on the front lines,” Hogan said. “We've taken all these actions. We've got to provide these necessary services to help people get back on their feet. It's critical to the rebounding of our economy.”
Hogan continued, "We have a commitment from the president and the vice president and there's bipartisan legislation in the Senate to do something to help support the states. "
The fight over aid comes as White House officials and lawmakers weigh the best options for the economy to rebound in the wake of the social distancing measures.
Mnuchin said he expected the economy would experience an uptick in the summer and early fall.
“We are putting an unprecedented amount of fiscal relief into the economy," Mnuchin said. "You’re seeing trillions of dollars that’s making its way into the economy and I think this is going to have a significant impact.”
Federal health officials have repeatedly said a key part of fully reopening the economy is widespread testing to track infection rates and reductions in the spread of the virus.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" said the country needs a "huge technology breakthrough" to develop testing that moves past detecting the live virus but instead can detect antigens, such as tests currently used to diagnose flu and strep.
"We have to be able to detect the antigen, rather than constantly trying to detect the actual live virus or the viral particles itself, and to really move into antigen testing," Birx said.
Asked about the challenges states have faced in acquiring supplies such as swabs and chemicals to ramp up coronavirus testing, Birx told CNN that over the past month the Food and Drug Administration has signed off on different swabs and reagent liquids for use, all to "unlock capacity day after day after day."