Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) spoke today on the Senate floor about the need for funding to address critical shortfalls in state, local, and tribal government budgets. She called on Senate colleagues to pass additional coronavirus legislation to help governments pay for essential first responders, health care, education, and other critical services.
Senator Cortez Masto’s remarks are available in VIDEO FORMAT. Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:
At kitchen tables all over Nevada, families are sitting down and poring over their budgets.
Too many of them are trying to figure out how to stretch their budget with no income and making difficult decisions on which bills need the most urgent attention.
And state, local, and tribal governments are doing the same thing.
With the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, state and local governments have less revenue at a time when they need resources to combat the virus and keep Nevadans safe.
That’s why, when Congress passed the CARES Act in March, Democrats fought so hard for funding for state, local, and tribal governments.
We wanted to make sure state and local governments had enough cash on hand to cover the urgent costs of the pandemic. So that they could keep services running and expand their response to this crisis.
We needed to guarantee these governments could cover the costs of emergency shelters for COVID patients.
We had to make sure frontline responders had enough personal protective equipment on hand for them to do their jobs.
And we wanted local governments to help people stay in their homes.
We allocated $150 billion dollars for state, local, and tribal governments in March.
That was a compromise. Democrats didn’t think it was going to be enough, and we were right.
Now we’re starting to see those funds run out.
Our local, state and tribal governments are making difficult decisions about whether they can pay first responders, teachers, and public health officials.
In Nevada, schools are opening in just a few short weeks, and leaders are looking to Washington for help.
You know, most states aren’t allowed to borrow to meet these expenses. And I know our esteemed Majority Leader has thought that bankruptcy is an option for them, but I can tell you that for me—and for Nevada—that is not an option.
Tribal councils, county commissions, and the Nevada State Legislature are doing what families are doing. They’re coming together to ask themselves how they can pay the most urgent bills in that big stack.
They’re working around the clock to get Nevadans the support they need to deliver the services they expect—everything from fighting wildfires to rethinking the school day to carrying out essential repairs on roads and bridges.
These governments are juggling so many needs. They have to securely hold the 2020 election, help make sure families are connected to school and work, get Medicaid benefits to those in need, keep EMTs on the job, and help businesses comply with safety regulations.
And with all these demands, states haven’t been able to keep up with those essential bills.
In my home state of Nevada, Governor Sisolak has had to convene two special sessions of the Nevada state legislature to figure out how to fill a $1.2 billion hole in the budget.
That money has come out of education, health services, and infrastructure improvements.
At a time when local school districts are working around the clock to figure out what a safe fall looks like, the federal government is forcing states to inflict budget cuts on education and health care. How does that make sense?
Here in Congress, we simply have to do more to get resources to states, tribes, and localities. There’s no excuse for withholding the funding our states need in the middle of a crisis.
It’s self-defeating. If we don’t support these governments, it’s going to slow our economy further, and it’s going to deprive Nevadans of absolutely critical services in a crisis.
We need to solve problems, not create them.
Let’s stop playing with people’s lives. Let’s get this money where it needs to go to fund emergency services, health care, schools, and so much more.
With families in Nevada and across the country wondering what school will look like in two or three weeks, let’s give them some certainty.
Let’s show the American people that in times of crisis we put partisanship aside. I call on the Majority Leader to negotiate with us and to find a solution that meets this moment. The time to act is today. Thank you.