Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39)
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (D-CA-39) joined Reps. Don Bacon (R-NE-02), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND-At Large), Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), Rick Crawford (R-AK-01), Jason Crow (D-CO-06), Jeff Fortenberry(R-NE-01), Elaine Luria (D-VA-02), Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), Jimmy Panetta (CA-CA-20), and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ-11) in introducing bipartisan legislation aimed at helping local governments utilize funding already allocated under the three previously passed bipartisan legislation packages. The ‘‘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.
“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 Rep. Bacon to introduce this bipartisan bill and fix these issues. The FLEX Act provides 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.”
“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 be 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.”
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.