Ernst:  Give states more flexibility with CARES money

Joni Ernst
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst is a Republican from Red Oak, Iowa. She is shown here in a file photo from November, 2014. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said Thursday that states should have more flexibility to share the federal dollars already appropriated for COVID-19 relief with local municipalities and counties.

Asked during a phone call with reporters whether Congress should appropriate more money for local governments, she said:

“What we have already done through the CARES package, that Phase III bill, was provide dollars to our state governments that would be specific to COVID-19-related costs.  And every governor is handling that a little bit differently, but what we have found is that there is very little flexibility within those dollars. We would like to see the dollars that have already gone into those states be used to help bridge gaps that communities are facing because of loss of revenue.”

She said some states “are sitting on money right now because they don’t have that built-in flexibility. And so within our own discussions here in Congress, we’d love to free up some of that money that has already been pushed out to the states for the use of local communities and counties.”

Some state budget officials and economists around the country are arguing that more federal aid is needed for states to avoid the sort of budget cuts that may have prolonged the Great Recession after 2008. But some Republican leaders have argued against what they have termed a “blue-state bailout,” referring to states or cities led by Democrats.

Ernst added that some communities have said they “are losing revenue, but they don’t necessarily need federal support, because they do have the 30% of their budget held in reserves.”

Ernst was also asked Thursday whether she agrees with the assessment of Gov. Kim Reynolds and Vice President Mike Pence that Iowa is a success story even though the state is reopening as COVID-19 infection rates continue to climb in some areas.

“I do think that we have some hotspots, there is absolutely no doubt about it,” she said. “I am thankful that the governor is reopening those communities that are deemed safer or maybe more appropriate to open at this time. But we first and foremost need to ensure worker and public safety. And so for those hotspots, you know, I think it’s entirely appropriate to wait a while until they open back up.”

Reynolds this week allowed some businesses to reopen statewide, even in areas with fast-growing numbers of positive cases. The governor said Thursday it was a matter of “fairness” and that people can decide for themselves whether to shop.

 

Kathie Obradovich
Editor Kathie Obradovich has been covering Iowa government and politics for more than 30 years, most recently as political columnist and opinion editor for the Des Moines Register. She previously covered the Iowa Statehouse for 10 years for newspapers in Davenport, Waterloo, Sioux City, Mason City and Muscatine. She is a leading voice on Iowa politics and makes regular appearances on state, national and international news programs. She has led national-award-winning coverage of the Iowa Caucuses and the Register’s Iowa Poll.