Relief Bill: CARES Act restriction should be loosened

It is one thing to throw money at a problem. It is something else to keep throwing it while telling recipients they cannot use it to get out of a jam not of their own making.

Tuesday, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., proposed another round of federal spending to help Americans cope with the COVID-19 epidemic. This one would include $3 trillion, added to nearly the same amount already enacted.

For perspective, the entire federal budget for one year is approximately $4.7 trillion.

Pelosi emphasizes a critical facet of her proposal is $1 trillion to help states and cities.

But the original CARES Act already provides $150 billion intended to help cities and states. West Virginia’s share is $1.25 billion.

That money has been sitting in the state treasury while Gov. Jim Justice tries to persuade federal officials to allow it to be spent for what local governments and the state need: help with drastic losses of revenue due to the epidemic. Municipal, county and state revenue has suffered as a result of business restrictions established to limit the coronavirus’ spread.

Federal officials have told Justice the money is intended only for expenses related directly to COVID-19, however — not to backfill local and state budgets decimated by the crisis.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is among five co-sponsors of a bill put forward to rectify the situation. It is S-3638 and, if enacted, it would permit use of already provided federal money to cover budget shortfalls resulting from COVID-19.

If that measure is passed, it could lessen — or perhaps even eliminate — any need for the $1 trillion now proposed.

Before Congress throws even more funding — money SOMEONE will have to repay — at COVID-19, assistance already approved should be freed up for local and state governments. S-3638 should be approved by both houses of Congress, without delay.


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