WASHINGTON — The House prepared to take up the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package on Friday as questions were raised about whether the amount of aid to states, cities and hospitals was enough to keep up with skyrocketing cases of infections and deaths.
An analysis published by the Tax Foundation found that out of the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund, one part of the massive spending bill, Nevada would get the bare minimum, $1.25 billion. That’s the same as Wyoming and nearly two dozen other less populous states.
But Nevada would see other federal funding in the stimulus package for large and small businesses, hospitals, unemployed workers and checks for lower-income workers of up to $1,200.
“We are in constant contact with the governor,” said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev. “We are going to get a piece for hospitals, universities and the state and cities stabilization fund.”
Shortfalls would be dealt with later,” Titus told the Review-Journal.
“We were bold before, we’ll be bold again,” she said
Other Nevada lawmakers echoed the sentiment that unfair distribution of aid to the state would be addressed in a fourth relief bill that congressional leaders in both major political parties said they planned to write.
“There will be time to write a fourth package if we find out we are not getting our share,” Titus said. She said it was urgent to pass the current bill quickly because “these are immediate benefits you’ve got to get into people’s hands.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has scheduled a voice vote on the bill Friday, to keep members from having to travel back to Washington from their congressional districts. If just one member objects, lawmakers have been ordered to return for a Saturday vote.
Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., have urged their caucuses to vote for the bill.
“This is an incredibly important package,” said Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., in a telephone interview. She said there were numerous pots of cash that would help Nevada businesses, protect workers from losing jobs, help hospitals as well as cities and the state battle the virus.
“Anyone who has a payroll should be concerned,” she said, noting that she fought for restrictions on $500 billion for corporate aid that would help workers retain jobs.
Of the amount of funds in other categories, Lee said: “I’m leaving the door open for another package.”
Governors requested the $150 billion in the Coronavirus Relief Fund, in addition to an increase in Medicaid funding for states that expanded the program under the Affordable Care Act.
Three Nevada mayors from Las Vegas, Henderson and Reno joined 303 others nationwide in a request through the U.S. Conference of Mayors seeking $250 billion to help stave of layoffs of municipal employees and keep city services for residents.
Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., said smaller cities and towns would receive money directly from the governor out of the state’s allotment.
In addition, states would also be eligible for $274 billion for aid for specific responses to the coronavirus outbreak, increased payments and extended unemployment insurance benefits and assistance to small and large businesses through loans and grants.
Rosen said her largest concern was treatment for those who have contacted the virus. “It’s overwhelming our health care system,” she said.
Meanwhile, Nevada lawmakers were pleased with an extension of unemployment benefits from three to four months, distributed by states who have differing systems and formulas for the funds.
Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., sought added benefits in the bill, noting that the gaming and hospitality industry closures placed Las Vegas fourth on a Brookings Institution list of metropolitan areas likely to be hardest hit economically due to the coronavirus.
Titus, co-chair of the Travel and Tourism Caucus and the Gaming Caucus, said it was important that casinos were made eligible to receive loans for big businesses who retain workers. She noted that following Hurricane Katrina, the gaming industry was cut out of relief legislation.
She said there was also an economic development fund that could help Las Vegas advertise to bring back visitors, similar to those that aired in Florida with federal assistance after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
“There are a lot of different pockets of money that we can apply for,” Titus said of the funds in the stimulus package that could provide relief in Nevada initially as the outbreak continues to wreak havoc across the nation.