Senate Passes Bill to Allow Unspent COVID Relief for Infrastructure, Disaster Relief

Published 12:40 pm Monday, October 25, 2021

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WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, the Senate passed the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act, legislation led by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) to make several categories of infrastructure investments and disaster relief eligible for unspent COVID-19 relief dollars. It also extends the deadline to utilize relief funding if budgeted for eligible infrastructure projects. The legislation was supported by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Kennedy (R-LA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK). The legislation was also previously offered as an amendment to the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

“In 2020, states and cities across the country delayed or canceled transportation improvement projects totaling about $12 billion,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation puts decision-making power at the local level and gives these leaders more flexibility to invest in the most critical projects for their communities, whatever those might be. This will give communities in Texas and all other states the ability to use pandemic relief funding when and where it’s needed most. I want to thank Senators on both sides of the aisle who have worked with Senator Padilla and myself on this.”

“Each region of the country has unique local challenges in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill will provide state, local, tribal, and territorial governments the flexibility they need to better use federal resources to care for and serve their residents. This will ultimately help strengthen our response to the continued fight against COVID,” said Sen. Padilla.

“Louisianians have gone through historic hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters over the last 18 months, and they still need help rebuilding their homes and businesses. I’m thankful to have worked with Sen. Cornyn to give Louisiana the power to redirect unspent coronavirus money for disaster victims. I hope the House follows suit quickly by sending this bill to the president’s desk,” said Sen. Kennedy.

Sen. Rick Scott said, “With an unsustainable $30 trillion federal debt crisis maxing out America’s credit card, it is critical that every single tax dollar is spent in the best interests of American families. I’ve been saying for months that if states and local communities don’t need the billions of dollars in federal funding they received for COVID relief, these tax dollars should absolutely be used to pay down the U.S. debt, settle our past-due bills and put this country back on a path to economic freedom. I’m glad this common sense provision was unanimously approved in the U.S. Senate and look forward to this important legislation quickly passing in the House of Representatives.”

“Arizona mayors know what is best for their communities which is why I co-sponsored this legislation to give our cities and towns the flexibility to use relief funds for much-needed infrastructure investments. This bill will help put our local economies on a stronger path to recovery,” said Sen. Kelly.

“ANCs and the thousands of Alaska Natives they serve have been left in limbo since the spring of 2020, hopeful but uncertain that they would have fair access to CARES Act tribal resources,” said Sen. Sullivan. “With the Supreme Court’s just decision upholding their access to these federal resources, ANCs are facing a time crunch to get COVID-19 relief dollars out the door. This unnecessary rush is not in the interest of good governance or the people we serve. I thank Senators Cornyn and Padilla for leading this legislative effort, which isn’t about spending new federal dollars, but rather granting reasonable flexibility to deploy CARES Act relief in the best interests of our constituents, whose lives, businesses and communities have been upended by the pandemic.”