Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the city’s nonvoting representative in the House, says more than half of Democrats in Congress have supported the District’s push for the funding. But it was difficult to add the aid to a bill that is focused on small businesses, hospitals and testing and contains no funding for states and localities.
“That significantly reduces our chances to get something in there for one city, even one that has, forgive my expression, been screwed,” Norton said in an interview.
The Senate approved the new aid bill Tuesday. The House is expected to vote Thursday.
In an interview with WTOP, Bowser (D) said she’s been “assured that Congress wants to get this done” and that the city “will continue to push.”
Federal relief legislation passed in March guaranteed at least $1.25 billion to each of the 50 states but required the District to split a smaller pool of funding with five U.S. territories. The city received $500 million.
That prompted outrage because the District is almost always treated as a state when it comes to highway, education and food assistance funding. Unlike territories, the District pays federal taxes — more, taxes, in fact, than several less populous states. The city also has more covid-19 cases than many states.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) was among those championing more money for the District. On Monday, according to an aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, Hoyer urged former congressman Mark Meadows, now the president’s chief of staff, to support retroactively funding the District like a state.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who frequently represents the District’s interests in the Senate, said last month that Republicans deliberately targeted the nation’s capital for lower funding. The bill ultimately passed unanimously.
“Despite an increase in covid-19 cases in Washington, D.C., Republicans are still playing a cynical political game by refusing to provide the people in our nation’s capital with their fair allocation of emergency federal relief funds,” Van Hollen said in a Tuesday statement. “We will keep fighting until this injustice is addressed.”
Michael Zona, a spokesman for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), said last month that the District received less money because it is not a state. “No one was trying to ‘shortchange’ any particular jurisdiction,” Zona said.
D.C. officials say failing to fully fund the District also affects residents of neighboring Maryland and Virginia — as well as members of Congress and their staff members who live in the city.
President Trump addressed the disparity when asked at a news conference last week. “We’re looking at that, certainly,” the president said. “I heard that complaint, but the mayor seems to be very happy with everything we’ve done.”
Bowser, who had previously called the treatment of the District “infuriating,” responded to his comments by praising the federal government for providing “critical equipment” and urging the administration and Congress to address the “injustice” of the funding disparity.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said additional funding for the District would be among her top priorities for the next round of emergency relief.
The D.C. Council passed legislation Tuesday that would require landlords to inform tenants when they receive mortgage deferrals that, under previously passed legislation, makes tenants eligible for lower rent. Lawmakers also authorized nightclubs to sell food and alcohol for off-premise consumption.