Ed Markey says state and local coronavirus aid may not come until Joe Biden takes office

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey says it would be a “billion-dollar mistake” for federal lawmakers to forgo state and municipal aid in the next coronavirus relief package as local governments continue to feel the strain of dual health and economic crises.
But he appeared resigned Thursday that the much-needed help may not come until President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Top negotiators appeared to be moving closer to a deal on a $900 billion economic relief package that would include $600 stimulus checks; extended enhanced unemployment benefits, including $300 weekly bonus checks; and money for businesses, vaccines, and rent and food assistance.
But the long-delayed aid seemingly won’t include the $160 billion for state and local governments that Democrats sought.
“That is a billion-dollar mistake,” Markey said during a virtual press conference with Massachusetts mayors and municipal leaders. “But this package is only the beginning.”
Markey blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for using local aid “as a political pawn,” but said he was willing to take a deal now in hopes more money would flow under the Biden administration.
“When President Biden takes office this January we will pass bold and comprehensive relief to our cities and states,” Markey vowed.
Days after Gov. Charlie Baker said federal lawmakers could strike a deal by the “end of the week,” Markey indicated it might take longer.
“Congress should be prepared to stay here for Saturday and Sunday, at least,” Markey said, adding he would work through Christmas if needed.
Cities and towns are running low on CARES Act funding after pouring millions of dollars into testing, contact tracing, housing, food security, education and small business aid. And anything not spent by Dec. 30 has to be returned to the federal government, Markey said, just as communities look to beef up vaccine distribution and education programs.
To top it off, Massachusetts Municipal Association CEO Geoffrey Beckwith said local-option lodging and meals taxes are expected to be reduced by more than $200 million. And he said “the worst is yet to come” with the commercial property tax base expected to “wither.”
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said his city’s spent half of its $6 million CARES Act allocation to renovate nursing homes, purchase personal protective equipment and support commerce. He’s also had to close a police station, senior center and fire company, and reduce the city’s workforce.
“Congress, candidly, has disappointed us over time,” Mitchell said, adding, “Revenues are not going to bounce back and we’ve got to deal with it somehow.”
In the House Thursday, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley also called to send Americans “survival checks immediately.”
Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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