Americans across the political spectrum overwhelmingly want the federal government to provide a trillion dollars for state and local aid in the next Covid-19 relief package, according to new polling, raising the stakes even higher for congressional lawmakers as they work on reconciling House and Senate bills.
The poll, which was conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), consists of seven separate surveys of voters in Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Montana, and North Carolina and was commissioned by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
"If senators don't do the right thing and services are cut when our communities need them most, in November voters will know whom to blame," AFSCME president Lee Saunders said in a statement.
States are in a perilous position as the economic crisis sparked by the pandemic threatens to destroy local budgets due to precipitous declines in tax revenue.
States remain in dire straits due to #COVID19 & resulting economic crisis. Here are our recent pieces detailing the need for relief, the harmful budget cuts states are already beginning to make, & why the proposals from Senate Rs are severely inadequate. https://t.co/g9nVFF5cuu pic.twitter.com/GjmZVPvk1U
— Center on Budget (@CenterOnBudget) July 27, 2020
Economic Policy Institute president Thea Lee, in a statement, excoriated Senate Republicans for the insufficient state and local aid included in the HEALS Act unveiled Monday evening.
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"The bill's failure to provide any aid to state and local governments is a glaring weakness," said Lee. "This will mean drastic cuts to essential services like health care, education, and public safety right when people need them the most. It will also cost 5.3 million jobs in both the public and private sectors by the end of 2021, as public sector cuts and layoffs cause major fallout in the private sector as well."
According to AFSCME, seven in 10 voters polled by PPP approve of an increase in local and state aid for the next package "to prevent cuts to public services such as health care, education and emergency response as cash-strapped states and localities face deep budget shortfalls due to the pandemic."
In his statement, Saunders noted the decision by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to stall on relief efforts despite the fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent the HEROES Act to the upper chamber in May.
"Speaker Pelosi and the U.S. House passed this aid, as well as unemployment insurance, weeks ago as part of the HEROES Act," said Saunders. "Meanwhile, Sen. McConnell decided to 'hit pause' and go on vacation."
"Now, as a surge of the virus continues across the country, senators can no longer ignore the calls of voters, local elected officials, and economists who have repeatedly called for this relief," Saunders continued. "The Senate must not leave Washington until this aid is delivered so that we can beat the pandemic and safely reopen the economy."