States Run Up Against Deadline To Spend COVID Aid

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States Run Up Against Deadline To Spend COVID Aid
The relief package President Trump opposes includes a year-long extension of the Coronavirus Relief Fund.
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President Trump’s opposition to the new coronavirus aid package is about direct payments to Americans, but the bill also allows states to keep spending billions of dollars in other aid approved in spring.

The money has been available to reimburse pandemic-related expenses including medical supplies, rental assistance grants, small business relief and technology enhancements for schools.

“Unfortunately, there’s not enough state funding to make us whole, and that’s just a reality of what we’re dealing with,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said during a Dec. 1 news conference.

The Coronavirus Relief Fund, part of the CARES Act, set aside $150 billion for state, local and tribal governments.

The money came with a deadline: It has to be spent by Dec. 30.

Governments have been drawing down the dollars, but slower than expected, trying to make the funds last amid uncertainty over what they would get from Washington in the future.

They’re also navigating a cumbersome process designed to ensure the aid is spent properly.

As a result, officials in Ohio say rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters need more time to apply for funds.

Virginia is relying on the money to continue COVID contact tracing.

Forty-nine state attorneys general fired off a letter to the Capitol saying Dec. 30 was “a deadline that now seems unreasonable.”

Congress listened, agreeing to a year-long extension to keeping the money available until Dec. 31, 2021.

“We cannot turn our backs on this suffering,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders prior to the bill’s passage.

If President Trump decided to veto the package, it would leave the Dec. 30 deadline in place for the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

States and cities would have to find money in their own depleted budgets, at least for a while, to fund the fight against coronavirus as infections soar.