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Senate Passes Shaheen-Backed Bill to Allow Unspent COVID Relief for Infrastructure, Disaster Relief

(Washington, DC) – Tuesday night, the Senate passed the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act, legislation U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) helped introduce with Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Alex Padilla (D-CA), among others. This bill makes several new categories of infrastructure investments and disaster relief eligible for unspent COVID-19 relief dollars. It also extends the deadline to utilize relief funding if budgeted for eligible infrastructure projects. The legislation was also previously offered as an amendment to the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

“As I’ve met with communities across the state to discuss pandemic recovery efforts, it’s clear that local leaders understand the on-the-ground needs best. That’s why they deserve flexibility to make sure relief is managed and directed within our communities where it’s needed most,” said Shaheen. “This legislation empowers cities and towns across the country to direct unspent COVID relief to the projects that best serve the needs of families and communities. I’ll keep fighting to ensure leaders in New Hampshire have the federal resources needed to turn the page on this crisis.”

While the American Rescue Plan Act made water, wastewater and broadband infrastructure explicitly eligible for COVID relief funds, the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act would provide additional flexibility for States, Tribes and units of local government to spend their allocations of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds on other important priorities.

The legislation gives state and local officials additional flexibility to responsibly spend their own funds. There is a cap—the greater of $10 million or 30% of the funds—on how much of the COVID money can be spent on these new purposes (though the previous ARP set asides for water, wastewater, and broadband remain unrestricted). The bill also allows these funds to be used to provide emergency relief from natural disasters and creates a process for local officials to decline funds if their jurisdictions did not suffer budget shortfalls during COVID, an option not currently available to them under the American Rescue Plan.

The legislation was also supported by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Kennedy (R-LA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Rick Scott (R-FL) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).

Text of the bill is available here.

Shaheen is a member of the bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers that steered negotiations on COVID-19 relief. Senator Shaheen’s leadership helped secure robust flexible assistance for state and local governments in the American Rescue Plan Act during negotiations with colleagues in the Senate and with the Biden administration. Shaheen helped secure more than $1.4 billion in state and local funding for New Hampshire through the American Rescue Plan, which included greater flexibility to respond to unique local needs.