U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

April 25, 2020

State and Local Governments Are on the Frontlines 

Dear Friends,

Earlier this week, Congress passed an interim emergency relief package that will provide $484 billion to support small businesses, bolster our health care system and expand national testing efforts. I am proud that we finally were able to work in a bipartisan fashion to reach an agreement that addresses some of the most pressing needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus that we are battling does not recognize any difference between Democrats and Republicans, and neither should our response. Unfortunately, there is one group of stakeholders who are in dire need of assistance, but who were stymied by partisan differences in this most recent legislation: state and local governments.

The current health crisis is taking a tremendous toll on state and local governments. For Maryland and other states, it depletes resources in unexpected ways with heavy burdens on essential services, such as emergency health services, police and firefighters, as well as trash collection, public safety and public education. As local revenues have collapsed with the curtailment of normal daily routines, our cities, counties and the state have been forced to establish funds to assist local small businesses and increase health system capacity to respond to, care for, and treat those with COVID-19, including some of our most vulnerable populations, such as low-income communities, seniors and the homeless. This is in addition to the purchase of needed medical supplies, such as ventilators, personal protective equipment, testing kits and other necessary tools for treating and containing COVID-19. All of this unexpected financial pressure on state and local governments harms their ability to carry out their most basic functions.

The legislation that we passed this week and signed into law Friday does nothing to alleviate the pressures on our state and local governments. I reject the argument made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the federal government has done enough and we should encourage local governments to go bankrupt. Congress needs to provide them with significantly more funding, and we need to make sure that funding reaches all levels of government. As an example, I know that Maryland’s state and local government needs far exceed the initial $2.34 billion provided under the CARES Act. I firmly believe that every government in our state, not just those managing populations of more than 500,000, should receive its own, direct share of funding to address the COVID-19 concerns of its community. Importantly, any future federal funding for state and local governments should allow reimbursement for revenue lost as a result of this pandemic.

I have been in conversations with elected leaders from across Maryland, and all of them, whether they represent a town of 4,000 people or a county of more than 1 million, have the same fears about what this pandemic will mean for their constituents and their budgets. They primarily are concerned for their residents’ health. But they also are legitimately worried that they will no longer be able to provide the quality of health, security and social services that their communities deserve. In order to prevent our country from grinding to a complete halt as a result of COVID-19, our states and localities need sufficient funding to not only address the immediate health crisis, but maintain the basic, daily functions that allow every woman and man, child and family to live in dignity and comfort.

As state and local governments continue to battle on the frontlines of the coronavirus response, I will keep leading Team Maryland to marshal the federal resources needed to help protect all of you. So far, we have been able to secure a Major Disaster Declaration for Maryland that allows the state and localities to apply for disaster reimbursement, to expand federally supported COVID-19 testing and medical sites in the state, make sure our Maryland National Guard members get the full pay and benefits they deserve, and to amplify requests by the Maryland Emergency Management Agency for increased funding, supplies and personnel. More funding for health providers is on the way thanks to this latest supplemental funding package. 

Our work is far from complete. We have not bent the curve sufficiently, yet. But we will. For my part, I will continue fighting for the cities, counties, municipalities and communities of Maryland until long after this difficult chapter is behind us.


      Ben Cardin

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