Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) at a news conference on D.C. statehood on June 16, 2020. (Amanda Voisard/for The Washington Post)

More than $14 billion in direct coronavirus relief funding may be pouring into government coffers in the District, Maryland and Virginia in coming months — and for D.C., that could include the $755 million it was denied in the first relief package nearly a year ago.

The proposed infusion of funding would allow significantly more flexibility for state and local governments, which could use the money for purposes including school infrastructure projects, grants for struggling businesses and covering severe revenue losses caused by the pandemic.

The most recent coronavirus relief package, enacted in December, did not include any direct aid that state and local governments could use as operating funds related to pandemic needs, thus angering mayors and governors who said they were in desperate need of the money.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) called the direct aid — and the ability of recipient jurisdictions to use it to offset revenue losses — the “missing ingredient” in past bills.

“This is a lifesaver for local budgets. There is no question,” Cardin said Friday. “It recognizes that if we don’t provide the help, you’ll see more and more layoffs and less ability of state and local governments to carry out their missions.”

Maryland delegates push to expand eligibility for coronavirus relief funds

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform released the initial funding estimates this week and began debating the provisions Friday. Of the $350 billion the committee proposed allocating for state and local governments nationwide, Virginia is expected to receive $6.4 billion, Maryland $5.8 billion and D.C. $2.2 billion, including the $755 million in retroactive Cares Act funding.

Last year, the Senate — at the time controlled by Republicans — left that money out of the District’s allocation because it classified D.C. as a territory, not a state.

Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s nonvoting delegate in Congress and a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, said she would “dare” any Republican to attempt to strip the $755 million in retroactive funds from the new bill.

“Whoever raises that will be told the people I represent pay more federal taxes per capita than the people they represent,” she said.

The new relief bill classifies the District not only as a state but also treats it as a city and county to maximize its funding, an approach that Norton said “delighted” her.

The funding will be considered later by the Senate — now narrowly controlled by Democrats. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said Friday that he was feeling “100 percent confident” that it would remain in the bill when the Senate voted because the relief package is being pushed through as a reconciliation bill, meaning that Republicans won’t be able to filibuster and that it needs only a majority to be passed in the chamber.

“We’re rock-solid on that,” Kaine said. “We’re using the same reconciliation vehicle that Republicans used to pass the tax cut, that they used to try to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.”

Capitol breach, Democratic control of Senate put D.C. statehood front and center.

House Republicans pushed back Friday on the $350 billion in direct state and local aid, just as they did in December, arguing that it was not needed because local and state governments had not exhausted billions of dollars in relief funding allocated last year.

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) called it a “big blue-state bailout,” and Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) said it was “a boondoggle that mortgages our future unnecessarily, especially when a trillion dollars have yet to be spent from previous relief bills.”

A pair of Virginia and Maryland Republicans have offered legislation that would all but ensure that virtually the entire D.C. region could not receive any of the relief money.

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), a staunch proponent of ending any coronavirus restrictions, introduced a bill that would make any state or local government that has enacted restrictions affecting small businesses — including occupancy and curfew rules — ineligible to receive coronavirus relief funds.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) co-sponsored Good’s bill, which has little to no chance of succeeding in the majority-Democratic chamber.

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), who was a chief negotiator with Republicans on the last relief package, said in a statement that he believed Congress could “certainly tailor aid to local governments appropriately to make sure it helps those localities most in need of federal assistance, without giveaways to certain places that haven’t seen budget problems because of the crisis.” The funding formula in part is based on how many people are unemployed in a given state, for example.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) called the direct assistance to local and state governments a “vital lifeline,” particularly given that they have vast discretion to use the money for specific local priorities, including offsetting dramatic losses in revenue.

Norton said that provision will be especially important for the District, which has experienced a sharp decline in hotel occupancy and business at local restaurants — two of the city’s main economic engines.

“In the past, cities and counties were constrained in how they used the funds,” Van Hollen said. “This allows them to use these monies in a flexible way to meet their priorities.”

Coronavirus news in D.C., Virginia and Maryland

The latest: More than two years into the pandemic, covid cases in the D.C. region are rising again, , while liberal Montgomery County asks who deserves credit for its robust covid response. Meanwhile, Black funeral directors still face a daunting amount of deaths from covid and the omicron wave has had an unequal toll in the DMV.

At-home tests: Here’s how to use at-home covid tests, where to find them and how they differ from PCR tests.

Mapping the spread: Tens of thousands have died in the local region and nationwide cases number in the hundreds of thousands.

Omicron: Remaining covid restrictions in the D.C.-area, plus a breakdown of variant symptoms and mask recommendations.

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