Maryland and Virginia Democrats push for more funding for state and local governments
Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post
Democratic members of Congress from Maryland and Virginia put forward a long list of ideas on Thursday that they hope to include in the next coronavirus relief bill. Many of the members said their top priority is additional money for state and local governments, which are struggling to provide social services for their residents during the crisis as they expect to take in far less tax revenue.
Rep. Robert “Bobby” C. Scott (Va.), who chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor, said that while he is advocating for some direct funding for education — including money for preschools and colleges, and student loan deferment for more borrowers who were not covered in previous legislation — he believes “the number one thing we can do” to support public education is to secure funding for states and cities. He pointed out that Virginia is considering reversing previous education funding passed by the General Assembly before the coronavirus, including a 2 percent raise for teachers, an increase in funding for high-poverty schools and a freeze on some public college tuition.
“If we don’t help states with revenue, they have to balance their budgets. And to a large extent we believe it comes out of education,” Scott said.
Rep. John Sarbanes (Md.) pointed out that local governments need funds to hire contact tracers, as Baltimore County is doing.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (Va.) emphasized the need for funds for smaller communities, like those she represents in central Virginia, not the large cities that got higher priority in earlier congressional relief packages. Spanberger also said in a press call that the crisis has highlighted the need for major federal investment in nationwide broadband Internet. A lack of good Internet access is hampering telemedicine, virtual education and business in rural communities as well as some urban ones, she said.
Other ideas listed by the Democratic members included the advocacy by Rep. Don Beyer (Va.) for a system of automatic increases and decreases to unemployment checks based on economic conditions, and for a national 988 number to call for suicide prevention, and calls by Rep. Jennifer Wexton (Va.) for another round of stimulus checks, this time for $2,000 per adult and $1,000 per child, and a nationwide moratorium on all evictions and foreclosures.