WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. state and local governments could need close to $1 trillion in aid over several years to cope with the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday.
At a news conference, Pelosi said the Democratic-majority House of Representatives planned to return to session the week of May 11, but also indicated that could change, saying lawmakers are “at the mercy of the virus.” The Republican-run Senate returns next week after an extended recess.
Pelosi said money for state and local governments would be the core of the next legislative package Democrats draft to respond to the virus, although she also named other priorities, such as extending broadband access. A bill has yet to emerge.
“I’ve talked about almost a trillion dollars right there,” the speaker said of state and local government needs. “But we do have other issues that we want to deal with.”
“We’re not going to be able to cover all of it but to the extent that we can keep the states and localities sustainable, that’s our goal,” Pelosi said. Earlier, she had told CNN that the additional aid would be intended to help sustain states for up to four years.
It was the first time Pelosi has used such a high number publicly when talking of covering state and local costs of battling the COVID-19 pandemic. State governors have requested $500 billion to help cover public health expenses and lost tax revenues and assist people getting back to work.
But the future of new coronavirus legislation has been clouded by partisan disagreements.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the chamber’s top Republican, has signaled that he is open to providing additional aid to states and municipalities but wants Democrats to agree to a measure that would protect businesses from COVID-related litigation.
Pelosi said on Wednesday that Democrats were not inclined to support business protections. Instead, she emphasized the need to protect workers and patients.
Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis