NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, says a bill he is co-authoring to provide financial help for state and local governments heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic will be introduced in Congress on Monday.
"Just like small businesses have had to close, they’re losing revenues,” Cassidy said.
State and local governments rely heavily on sales tax dollars, but many businesses were forced to suspend operations due to the virus.
Cassidy and Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, are sponsors of the proposed State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition Fund which is also called the SMART Fund.
Under their legislation, $500 billion would be provided to help state and local governments continue to provide critical services like police and fire protection.
"The revenue that is used to support sanitation, fire, police, airport ground crew, that is gone. How do we keep them in place so that restaurants can open their doors once more is going to take Congress supporting state and local government just like Congress is supporting small businesses and families,” Cassidy said.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards hopes the Cassidy-Menendez bill becomes law.
"Because it doesn’t make sense if we’re trying to keep the economy going that states be in a position where they can’t keep schoolteachers employed or first responders,” Edwards said.
Cassidy says already some members of Congress are showing strong support for the idea, but they will continue to reach out to others.
"Twenty-five Democrats, 25 Republicans on the House side that are interested in beginning to push it,” Cassidy said. “It’s essential, we’ve got to replace that income to support the cops, the firefighters, the sanitation workers. We’re not going to support mismanaged pension funds, but we are going to support our first responders.”
Sen. John Kennedy, also of Louisiana, shares Cassidy’s sentiments on not bailing out poorly managed pension funds.
"We will discuss giving additional monies to state and local governments that need them but we're all going to have to participate in shared sacrifice and I'm not going to vote to bail out certain states that have totally screwed up and underfunded their pension systems,” Kennedy said.
Cassidy was asked whether he supports Congress approving more federal funding for individual Americans as the pandemic lingers.
“It depends how long this economic lockdown continues. Ideally, we get back on our feet pretty quickly, if we do then a lot of this assistance won’t be needed but on the other hand if it turns out that it is needed I think Congress is going to step up and continue to support, I will certainly support that,” Cassidy said.
And money issues aside, Cassidy, who is a physician, is urging everyone to adjust to the “new normal” brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We’re not there yet psychologically but for us to reopen we have to recognize there is a new normal and that new normal is going to require hand sanitizing regularly, wearing a mask when you’re in the public,” Cassidy said.