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Video: On Senate Floor, Sen. Mark Warner Calls for Additional Coronavirus Funding, Flexibility for State and Local Governments

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ON SENATE FLOOR, WARNER CALLS FOR ADDITIONAL CORONAVIRUS FUNDING AND FLEXIBILITY FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS 

~ Senator warns of layoffs for police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and other public servants if Congress does not assist state and local governments ~ 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) spoke on the Senate floor about the budgetary challenges facing state and local governments due to the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak. In his remarks, Warner urged Congress to provide additional financial assistance to states and localities and flexibility in how they use coronavirus relief funds. Warner cautioned that failure to address these budget shortfalls could threaten the jobs of first responders and other public servants on the front lines of the pandemic.

Sen. Warner spoke following Senate floor debate on a motion made by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), which would have brought up for consideration Sen. Kennedy’s legislation to give state and local governments more flexibility as they use funds provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. After the motion was blocked by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), Sen. Warner took the opportunity to call for the Senate to provide greater assistance to state and local governments.

In a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Warner said in part: “It seems strange to me, when we say we’re going to bail out the airlines because they’ve lost revenues. We’re going to generously take care of every small business when they’ve lost revenues. But when states and localities across the country are losing revenues at a record rate—how can we say we’re not going give them flexibility?”

He continued: “The notion that somehow we’re going to take care of everyone else who lost revenues, but we’re not going to take care of a local government who’s seen its meals tax dry up, its lodging tax dry up, its sales tax dry up—but suddenly you’re on your own and you’ve got to lay off police officers, firefighters, and EMTs at this moment in time doesn’t make sense to me.” 

Sen. Warner, a former Governor of Virginia, has been outspoken on the need to support state and local governments facing budget shortfalls due to the impact of the coronavirus. In April,  Sen. Warner called on the Trump administration to revise needless bureaucratic restrictions on how Governors can distribute Coronavirus Relief Funds to their states, which threaten to force states and communities to cut public services and lay off of public employees on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. 

The full text of Sen. Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery appears below: 

Mr. President, I’m here to speak on another topic, but I want to simply comment on the exchange between my friend from Louisiana and my friend from Florida.

I can assure my friend from Louisiana that the state ranked by an independent source, Governing Magazine, as the best managed state was the Commonwealth of Virginia. We were also ranked by Forbes Magazine as the best state for business.

I’ve looked at the Senator from Louisiana’s bill. It may not be perfect, but I actually think we should be voting on it. 

I say this as someone who’s proud of the fact that in Virginia we’ve maintained a AAA bond rating, and we are fiscally responsible. Our fiscal health is, candidly, better than virtually every other state in the country, and we’ve made the hard choices to make that happen. 

But it seems strange to me, when we say we’re going to bail out the airlines because they’ve lost revenues. We’re going to generously take care of every small business when they’ve lost revenues. But when states and localities across the country are losing revenues at a record rate—how can we say we’re not going give them flexibility? 

I would concur if we had a bill like that. I’d even support a clause that would prohibit those funds from being used to take care of long-term obligations like pension funds. 

But the notion that somehow we’re going to take care of everyone else who lost revenues, but we’re not going to take care of a local government who’s seen its meals tax dry up, its lodging tax dry up, its sales tax dry up—but suddenly you’re on your own and you’ve got to lay off police officers, firefighters, and EMTs at this moment in time doesn’t make sense to me. 

I hope the Senator will continue to press his case and we’ll get a chance to have that debate.