WASHINGTON. – The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package now making its way through the US Congress would provide $350 billion to help pandemic-hit state and local governments balance their budgets, more than twice the amount lawmakers approved last year.
But not every state comes out ahead: urban, Democratic-led states like Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts that took drastic steps to stop the coronavirus’ spread would get about three times as much money per person as they did in the package passed at the beginning of the health crisis in March.
Rural, Republican-led states including Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota that did less would see less cash.
That’s because Congress is giving greater weight to poverty and unemployment this time as it considers how to distribute money to keep police, firefighters and other public employees on the job during a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans and thrown millions out of work.
It also reflects the fact that Democrats who control both chambers of Congress drafted the package for their fellow Democrat President Joe Biden without Republican input.
Under the new bill, named the American Rescue Plan, 61% of the aid would end up in states that voted for Biden in November, up from 56% in the bipartisan CARES Act passed last March.
Reuters examined House Oversight Committee projections on how much direct fiscal aid each state would receive in the bill, which is set for a vote in the House of Representatives this week before moving to the Senate.
It is expected to pass, even if no Republicans vote for it.
The CARES Act distributed $140 billion to state and local governments based on population, delivering a minimum of $1.25 billion to each state. That gave the largest per-capita benefits to the states with the smallest populations, including Wyoming and Vermont.
Another $3 billion was set aside for Washington, D.C., and US territories.
This time around, Democrats have lowered the per-state minimum to $500 million. The remaining $300 billion would be allocated based on unemployment and poverty levels as well as population. Tribal governments and territories would get $24.5 billion. Washington, D.C., would be treated like a state.