A bipartisan group of senators released the framework for two separate COVID relief bills Dec. 14, the smaller of which includes $160 billion for state, local, and tribal governments along with a distribution formula for states.
Of the $160 billion, $8 billion is earmarked for American Indian tribal governments with the remainder going to states. Each state will receive a minimum of $500 million, then the rest of the distribution comes from a formula giving one-third based on proportional population, and the other two-thirds based on revenue loss.
Governors will be required to spend at least 40 percent of the funds and will have the mandate to decide how to distribute the money – either proportionally based on population or revenue loss or utilizing a combination of the two measures. States will not be allowed to put more money into their pension accounts than the year before.
“There’s a great deal of variance as to how different states are affected,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said at a press conference to announce the bill. “But nonetheless, we’ll need funding to enable the better distribution of vaccine or for needs that are yet to be realized because of the continued COVID crisis.”
The senators said they continue to work on the contentious issue of liability protections in the bill, focused on defining differences between entities that have followed public guidelines, and those that have been grossly negligent. The senators said they hope to bring the $160 billion relief bill, and a larger $748 billion measure, to a vote prior to the legislature’s holiday break.