Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) on Wednesday introduced the Coronavirus Relief Fund Flexibility Act (H.R. 8360).
This legislation would allow states to determine how to spend remaining respective relief funds that were issued by the federal government under the CARES Act.
States and localities were provided $150 billion total through the relief fund for mitigation and response to COVID-19, and it is now estimated that approximately $80 billion remains unspent still. Right now, if those funds are unspent at the end of the calendar year, they revert to the federal government.
Palmer’s H.R. 8360 would allow state legislatures to determine how to utilize these remaining funds, with measures to encourage infrastructure development and future coronavirus preparedness.
“The initial legislation was perhaps too restrictive,” Palmer said in a statement.
“What we hope to do with this legislation is not only create some flexibility to prevent waste but to incentivize states to use the funds towards much needed infrastructure,” he explained. “The one-size-fits-all nature of the underlying measure fails to consider how each state is responding to the pandemic differently, so this legislation would put the spending decisions in the hands of those on the ground in the states who have a better understanding of their specific needs. If we pass this bill, we will give states a much needed boost for infrastructure and an extended period to determine how to address continued COVID-19 related expenses, instead of rushing to spend the funds with a looming deadline.”
According to the Central Alabama congressman’s office, the legislation would specifically prohibit funds from being spent on government employee bonuses, lobbying expenses or budget shortfalls predating the pandemic. H.R. 8360 would further provide a 50% match for funds spent on infrastructure projects begun in the next year and require states to hold 25% of their remaining relief funds in trust for future COVID-19 expenses.
Palmer has 14 co-sponsors listed on the legislation as of Thursday at 4:45 p.m. CT. All co-sponsors are Republicans.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn