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Local Officials Advocate For Direct Federal Aid To Counties

Jess Mador

With the congressional session coming to a close, federal lawmakers are continuing negotiations on a COVID-19 relief package. Local officials have been advocating for more relief funding, including direct federal aid to counties.

In the spring, Montgomery County received over $90 million in CARES Act funding. County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman said those funds have been used for all kinds of expenses, including 911 dispatch services, PPE for the county jail, and Chromebooks for students.

“You can't look at any part of our county, our education systems, our health systems, that hasn't been affected by this [the coronavirus],” she said. “Everything has a price tag on it, and it's things that we did not budget for, clearly. With the downturn in sales tax revenue and other revenues, it's become very difficult.”

But the money from the CARES Act had restrictions on it. These dollars could not be used, for example, to fill the $30 million in budget cuts the county made because of lost revenue, she said.

The National Association of Counties is advocating for any new round of funding to include flexible, direct aid to all counties based on population. That would include direct funding to counties with populations under 500,000, which had to get aid through state governments under the CARES Act. The organization also wants an extension on the December 30, 2020 spending deadline.

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