Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, gave the following statement at a full Committee hearing entitled “The Need for Financial Aid to America’s States and Territories During the Pandemic: Supporting First Responders, Assisting Schools in Their Efforts to Safely Educate, and Preventing Mass Layoffs.”
As Prepared For Delivery
The coronavirus pandemic crisis continues to cause terrible harm across the nation. Over 189,000 people have lost their lives to the virus in the United States, and there have been over 6.3 million cases nationwide. Last week’s jobs numbers showed an unemployment rate still over 10 percent for Black, Hispanic, and Asian workers, and millions of families are in danger of being evicted from their homes as they struggle just to make ends meet.
Today, we will be discussing the urgent need for Congress to provide financial relief to the nation’s states and territories during this crisis. It would have been interesting to hear the perspective of Republican governors at today's hearing. Unfortunately, the minority opted not to invite any. Nevertheless, I look forward to hearing from Governors Kelly, Lujan Grisham , Leon Guerrero and Walz.
As described in the Committee’s Rules, this Committee has jurisdiction over “financial aid to all sectors and elements within the economy,” which directly relates to the efforts by states and territories to navigate this pandemic. After all, state and territory governments are on the front lines of the response to the crisis. Many states have stepped up to support testing, purchase personal protective equipment and other critical medical supplies, and ensure a robust public health response to the crisis. States and territory governments are also working to tackle the challenge of remote learning for students who cannot safely return to the classroom. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, statehouses have approved over $3.5 billion in unanticipated expenditures to combat the virus.
At the same time, states and territories are experiencing steep declines in state tax revenue. One estimate based off of Congressional Budget Office projections showed the total budget shortfall for state and local governments next year will near $1 trillion. Of course, we learned during the Great Recession that budget cuts are not the solution to these shortfalls. In fact, cuts in state spending exacerbated and lengthened the last recession.
As a result of this crisis, states and territories need additional financial support for our first responders, to assist schools, and prevent layoffs. While Congress passed $150 billion in state aid in the bipartisan CARES Act, the National Governors Association, which represents Republican and Democratic Governors alike, quickly called on Congress for much more help. Recognizing the urgent need to provide additional COVID-19 relief, House Democrats passed the Heroes Act on May 15, which was 118 days ago. Among other things, the legislation would provide $915 billion to state, local, territorial and tribal governments, create emergency rental assistance and homeowner assistance funds, provide a second round of economic stimulus payments to most families, and extend unemployment benefits until January 2021. The Heroes Act would provide significantly more funding to cities and counties, and also would clarify Treasury Department guidance that currently prevents state governments from using relief funds to avoid layoffs and harmful cuts.
However, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans have blocked this critical relief, and their alternative bill provides zero dollars for states, zero dollars for rental assistance, and to add insult to injury, claws back hundreds of billions of dollars that could be used to support struggling small businesses. In addition, the President himself has made reckless and inflammatory threats to cut off funding to states because he does not like the protests against racism and police brutality occurring in the streets of many communities. They must stop playing games while families across the country suffer, and pass the urgently needed relief in the Heroes Act.
So I look forward to hearing from our distinguished witnesses about the challenges they are facing and the response that is needed from the federal government during this national crisis.