Tom Wickham Senior Vice President, State and Local Policy

Published

October 26, 2021

Share

Last week, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill (S. 3011, the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act) by unanimous consent. This bill would allow for additional flexibility for unspent COVID relief funds by states and localities—empowering communities to use pandemic relief funding when and where it’s needed the most. To that end, this bill creates several new categories of infrastructure investments and disaster relief eligible for unspent COVID-19 relief dollars and extends the deadline to utilize relief funding if budgeted for eligible infrastructure projects. The bill was cosponsored by eight Senators of both parties: Mr. Cornyn (R-TX) Mr. Padilla (D-CA), Mr. Wyden (D-OR), Ms. Murkowski (R-AL), Mrs. Murray (D-WA), Mr. Kelly (D-AZ), Mr. Kennedy (R-LA), and Mrs. Shaheen (D-NH).

With the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) earlier this year, $350 billion in financial aid was extended to all 50 states at the statewide, county, and metropolitan levels. As each region of the country faces unique local challenges in its COVID-19 response and recovery, aid was offered with the intent that it would be used flexibly to enable states and localities to apply funds to best help their economies recover from the economic downturn.

Since that bill’s enactment, the U.S. Chamber’s State and Local Initiative has tracked the uses of these funds and encouraged best practices on the part of the recipients. The Initiative has advocated for programs which invigorate the economy, incentivize workers to rejoin the workforce, provide workforce training, and make much-needed investments in infrastructure. This bipartisan state and local measure is consistent with those practices and would free up the unused funds for infrastructure, disaster relief, housing, community development, and other investments that will have a long-term economic return, and put our local communities on a stronger path to recovery. It also ensures tribes and territories eligible for assistance are given the time and flexibility to do so.

The bill expands on the uses of ARP funds within tight fiscal parameters. The bill permits eligible government entities to spend the greater of $10 million or 30% of their total fiscal relief funding on infrastructure and other new categories, some of which would be created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Because the bill only addresses unused relief funds, it does not increase federal spending or count on any budget scorecard. The bill requires that the funding supplement existing federal funding and places reporting requirements on the Secretaries of Treasury and Transportation to ensure transparency and accountability.

This is a bipartisan, commonsense bill that would be helpful in getting unspent COVID funds to much-needed infrastructure projects and lengthening the time that those funds can be spent completing those projects. Rather than adding to the federal debt, this bill quite simply ensures that untapped COVID-19 relief funds are spent in the best interests of American families. It is imperative that the House move quickly on S. 3011 to deliver these funds in an efficient and cost-effective way.

Download and read:

About the authors

Tom Wickham

Tom Wickham

Senior Vice President, State and Local Policy

Tom Wickham, former Parliamentarian of the U.S. House of Representatives, serves as senior vice president of State & Local Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Wickham leads the Chamber’s new division that monitors state and local policy developments and coordinates state and local policy advocacy strategies within the existing Chamber framework.

Read more