Washington, D.C. – Congressmen Don Bacon (R-NE-02) was today joined by Reps. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND-At Large), Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), Gilbert Cisneros (D-CA-39), Rick Crawford (R-AR-01), Jason Crow (D-CO-06), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-01), Elaine Luria (D-VA-02), Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ-11) to introduce bipartisan legislation aimed at helping local governments utilize funding already allocated under the three previously passed bipartisan legislation packages. H.R. 6652 ‘‘Flexibility for Localities and Eligibility Expansion Act of 2020’’ (FLEX Act) amends current language to allow additional flexibility for state and local governments to access previously approved federal relief funds to offset lost revenue due to the health emergency from COVID-19.
The current guidance prohibits the use of COVID-19 relief funds to offset lost revenues, thereby hurting America’s cities during this crisis. The CARES Act allocated $150 billion for state, local and tribal governments but requires these funds only be used to reimburse local governments for direct costs incurred from COVID-19 response actions. As a result of these restrictions, most of these funds remain unused. At the same time, stay at home orders and other public health measures have halted sales tax from economic activity and cut off state and local governments from one of their primary sources of revenue. As a result, cities and towns across America require an immediate infusion of cash to offset lost revenue in order to sustain essential services.
“If we don’t address these shortfalls now, our local leaders will be standing on the brink of having to make decisions that would result in laying off police, firefighters, and other essential services. We cannot allow that to happen,” said Rep. Bacon. “The largest city in my district, the City of Omaha, was scheduled to host to the NCAA Men’s College World Series, U.S. Olympic Swim Trials, Berkshire Hathaway Stockholders Meeting, and other events that attract thousands of people into restaurants and bars, generating critical revenue. Without these events Omaha is estimated to lose nearly $35 million this year in tax revenue, negatively impacting the city’s operations including first responder departments.”
“I’m proud of how our state, local, and tribal governments have responded to the current pandemic. It is only appropriate that we give them much-needed flexibility on how they spend the funds allocated through the CARES Act. This is not the time for more one size fits all regulation on our local governments, and I trust them to spend their funds in a way that benefits their unique COVID-19 response efforts,” said Rep. Armstrong.
“Communities like ours on the Central Coast of California are hurting, and it is imperative that CARES Act coronavirus relief funding can be accessed to provide essential services for our region and people across the nation," said Rep. Salud Carbajal. "Our bipartisan bill is a commonsense plan to ensure that state and local governments can utilize this already approved funding in order to maintain vital health systems, emergency operations, public safety protections and other essential services. I'm proud to join my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to continue advocating for necessary community resources during this challenging time.”
“With a substantial loss of tax revenue and increased demand for public services, our cities and states are struggling to stay afloat during this pandemic. The narrow scope of the CARES Act prevents cities and states from using this funding to address revenue shortfalls. Additionally, cities under 500,000 people are shut out from receiving critical aid,” said Rep. Cisneros. “I’m proud to work with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to introduce this bipartisan bill and fix these issues. The FLEX Act provides the much-needed flexibility and assurance to help our cities and states. We have to act swiftly to ensure our local and state governments have the necessary funding and guidance to effectively combat the coronavirus.”
“It is important for Congress to consider ways that rural areas of our country can be eligible for funds that have been authorized in the CARES Act. In states like Arkansas where counties and towns are unable to deficit spend, these funds could serve as another resource as local leaders make hard choices about the services they provide during this fight against COVID-19,” said Rep. Crawford.
"Our cities and states are on the front lines of this pandemic. As Congress works to address this crisis, we must make sure that legislation is driven not by ideology or party lines, but the needs of our communities. I'm proud to work on this bipartisan effort with my colleague Congressman Bacon to make sure that cities and states can use much-needed CARES Act relief to address their budgetary challenges caused by COVID-19," said Rep. Crow. "The coronavirus has impacted every facet of American life and caused unprecedented shortfalls at the state and local level. As we plan for recovery, we must ensure that our local leaders have the tools they need to keep critical municipal and state services up and running."
“Communities across Nebraska have been hurt by coronavirus-related tax revenue loss. I’m sure that no one wants to see police officers and firefighters laid off. To ensure that cities and towns can provide essential public services, the FLEX Bill rightly opens previously approved federal relief funds to these communities," said Rep. Fortenberry.
“Our commonwealth and localities are on the frontline of this pandemic, and Congress must do everything we can to support their efforts during this public health emergency and enable them to quickly recover. The FLEX Act would allow state and local governments the flexibility needed to continue providing essential services on the state and local level," said Rep. Luria.
“The CARES Act brought tremendous amounts of resources for State and Local Governments who are on the frontlines of facing the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. McCaul. “As funding has been distributed to our localities however, many are realizing the use of these funds are too strict, and not helping cover gaps in their budgets. I know firsthand from the City of Austin cancelling SXSW or the City of Houston cancelling the Rodeo due to COVID-19. Our state and local governments have taken a massive economic blow outside of the immediate expenses that have faced from the response of the virus. This legislation will give a lifeline for many of our local communities who depended on major events and consumer activity to bring in revenue."
“The strategy against COVID-19 has been federally funded, state-mandated, and locally executed. Our local governments have been on the front lines executing critical public health and emergency services at a time when they are experiencing devastating drops in revenue. That’s why the federal government needs to continue playing its part by funding local governments of all sizes,” said Congressman Panetta. “The Flexibility for Localities and Eligibility Expansion (FLEX) Act of 2020 ensures that localities serving fewer than 500,000 people can access CARES Act funding provided by the federal government, and gives them the flexibility to use the funding to offset lost revenue."
“Our towns and counties in New Jersey are at the epicenter of this pandemic, and have gone above and beyond to address the public health threat of COVID-19,” said Representative Sherrill. “From standing up testing sites to setting up robust contact tracing programs, they responded quickly to COVID-19, drawing money from their budgets to meet this challenge. Penalizing this quick action with limitations on federal funding jeopardizes the essential public services we need to get through this crisis. This bipartisan legislation will help ensure New Jersey towns and counties have the flexibility they need to keep our towns and counties whole.”