Several states are stepping in to provide economic relief to their residents, filling the gap that the federal government so far has left behind.
Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Washington are among the states that are proposing smaller economic relief packages to help struggling families and businesses while talks in Congress remain stalled.
Their efforts come as the last remaining aid from the CARES Act and executive actions are set to expire at the end of the year.
“New Mexicans are hurting, and without more federal economic relief in sight we have to take action now,” New Mexico Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said in a statement. “Assisting our small businesses, shoring up unemployment funds to help displaced workers, and providing some relief for people struggling with food and housing are all priorities the legislature strongly supports.”
The states propose different measures, including a one-time emergency payment similar to the stimulus check under the CARES, extending unemployment insurance by another 13 weeks, grant programs for small businesses, along with housing and rental assistance.
Some plan to vote on repurposing federal funding from the CARES Act, while others look to tap money from state revenues. The states are calling for special sessions to vote on the measures in the coming weeks.
“I don't think we wait an extra day,” Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said at a press conference on Tuesday. “The sooner we do it and the sooner we get certainty to those families, the better.”
‘The failure of this Congress’
The states’ push for more relief comes as stimulus talks stalled before the election and the two parties have not returned to negotiating a stimulus package.
“The actions by these four states show the failure of this Congress, namely the Senate, and the current administration,” Gbenga Ajilore, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a nonprofit for public policy research and advocacy, told Yahoo Money. “Relief was necessary starting back in the summer and should have been ongoing until the pandemic ended. The fact that the only federal action we have seen was the CARES Act passed in March and nothing since then is shameful.”
If a deal is not reached by the end of the year, many relief provisions including some unemployment benefits, eviction moratorium, student loan forbearance program, and others expire, leaving Americans — especially those who remain jobless — with limited government support this winter.
Up to 12 million Americans are expected to lose unemployment benefits coverage when the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs expire.
Read more: How to file for unemployment insurance
Before the election, the two parties came close on a new deal’s price tag with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) latest $2.2 trillion proposal and the White House’s “almost $1.9 trillion” proposal. But Senate Republicans — who are now likely leading negotiations — support something much smaller.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) latest proposal was worth just $500 billion, opening up a huge gap between the two parties on funding.
President-elect Joe Biden also supports the Democratic proposal.
“Right now Congress should come together and pass a COVID relief package like the HEROES Act that the House passed six months ago,” Biden said at a press conference last week.