Bipartisan Bill Would Ease COVID-19 Burden to Aid in Disaster Recovery Where Needed

052120-State and Local Aid Bills
VIDEO:  Hyde-Smith Discusses Bills Offering Direct Aid to Cities, Counties & States.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today introduced legislation to eliminate the cost-share payments required of states and communities included in federal disaster declarations in 2020.

The Local Community Emergency Relief Act of 2020 is the second Senate proposal offered this week to mitigate coronavirus-related financial burdens affecting states and cities.  Not limited to the COVID-19 emergency declaration, the bill would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide a 100 percent cost share for all federal emergency declarations and major disaster declarations during calendar year 2020.

“Cities and states are incurring ongoing revenue losses related to the COVID-19 emergency, and the federal government should utilize available tools and resources to ease that burden.  This is especially the case for areas hit by disasters.  Funding to meet the FEMA cost share requirements should instead be available for local front line work to overcome the pandemic,” said Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.

Hyde-Smith introduced the bill with U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (R-N.J.), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

In general, FEMA disaster assistance requires a 75 percent cost-share commitment from the federal government with 25 percent provided from nonfederal sources.  This legislation would follow earlier precedents to increase the federal burden beyond 75 percent to ease the burden on disaster-hit cities, counties, and states—Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and significant Louisiana floods in 2016.

Over the last 15 months, Mississippi has experienced 26 state-level disaster events, nine of which   were state of emergency declarations and eight required federal disaster declarations.

“The severe flooding and historic tornadoes in Mississippi this year alone add to the hardships associated with COVID-19—and hurricane season is just around the corner.  COVID-19 precautions complicate recovery efforts, but this bill would expedite efforts to deliver assistance to those who are in most need,” Hyde-Smith said.  “I look forward to this proposal being part of the debate as we weigh additional COVID-19 relief options.”

On Monday, Hyde-Smith helped introduce the bipartisan State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act (S.3752), which was introduced to provide $500 billion targeted to state, local, and tribal governments with flexibility to use the funds to help mitigate the need for significant layoffs, tax hikes, and interruption of essential services.

With the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, revenues for the state, counties, and municipalities have suffered as Mississippi’s unemployment rate—once at near full employment at 5.23 percent—is now an estimated 25.5 percent.  In addition, overall revenues for the state declined almost 30 percent in April 2020 compared to collections from April 2019, according to the Mississippi Department of Revenue.