WASHINGTON – Sen. Joe Manchin, D–W.Va., held a press conference Tuesday about a bill he is sponsoring that would help state and local governments during the coronavirus pandemic.
The SMART Act seeks to ensure that state and local governments can use their existing funding to offset revenue shortfalls and would provide $500 billion in new direct, flexible funding for all state, local and tribal governments, including an estimated $2 billion for West Virginia.
Manchin explained that the bipartisan bill would help governments of all sizes.
“I worked to ensure that the bill includes dedicated funding for every municipality and county, no matter how big or how small,” said Manchin. “That way, every unit of government, from the state on down, will have funding to respond to the crisis and make up for lost revenues. That means that our local mayors and county commissioners won’t have to be waiting on the government to make up his or her mind on how to spend it. And, I think that’s a great help and relief to a lot of our small—all of our counties and municipalities.”
States would receive funding based on a three-pronged formula:
- 1/3 based on population size
- 1/3 based on infection rates
- 1/3 based on revenue losses
States would receive a minimum of $2 billion, Manchin explained. Further, he stressed the importance of every county and municipality being treated fairly. The intention of the bill is to get money directly to these smaller governments, but Manchin admits this may not end up being the reality.
“It’s intended to go directly, okay, it’s intended to. I just heard this morning that it might, uh, have to go through the state and mandate that the state gets it into their hands within 15 days,” said Manchin. “What we’re trying to eliminate is the states, the governors, Democrat or Republican governors, taking politics out of it, they cannot, this is directly to help states. The politics cannot enter into it, where someone can make a decision, well, ‘I like this county, or I have, I do better over here.’
“Not saying that would happen, but you want to eliminate all temptation for politics to enter into this,” Manchin continued.
During his press briefing, Manchin also touched on his effort to encourage West Virginians to wear masks to curb the spread of coronavirus.