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May 18, 2020

Trone says $3 trillion Heroes Act relief package is essential

Credit: Cumberland Times-News, Greg Larry

CUMBERLAND — U.S. Rep. David Trone said the latest $3 trillion stimulus package is “absolutely essential” to continue America’s recovery from the COVID-19 global pandemic.


The largest relief package in American history, the Democrats in Congress introduced the $3 trillion COVID-19 Stimulus Bill. With Congress passing the measure, the bill must then go before the Senate. The House and Senate passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package on March 25, which was signed into action by President Donald Trump.


Among the features in the Heroes Act relief package are funding for state and local governments, hazard pay for essential workers and coronavirus testing as well as another round of $1,200 direct stimulus payments for citizens.


According to Trone, the relief package also has $40 million for Allegany County and $58 million designated for the city of Cumberland with the funding dispersed to the local governments over the next two years.


“The Heroes Act is absolutely essential to get America back on its feet, businesses open, and do it safely,” said Trone in a Times-News phone interview. “We have to do what it takes or we will be in another Great Depression. That is what we need to do. This problem is like we have never seen in our lifetimes, ever. We have a phenomenal country and phenomenal people who have really stepped up, but government, we have to do our part.”


Trone said, “The most important piece is the state and local funding of that there is $500 billion for the states. Gov. Larry Hogan, who has done a great job with leadership, has requested it go to the states.” Hogan is chairman of the National Governors Association.


“There is also $375 billion to local governments,” said Trone. “These cities and counties cannot be allowed to go bankrupt. State and local governments are losing income like tax revenue, hotel (-motel tax) fees, tourism … they are all down and the expenses are up that are COVID-related. So it’s a double whammy.”


Trone said relief for local governments is essential. 


“We will need to get an agreement with the Senate next week, but I hope this part will stay in like it is,” he said. “Everyone agrees, Republicans and Democrats, we need to support the state and local governments during this.”


Trone said, “Allegany County would get $26.4 million this year and next year they will get $13.2 million and the city of Cumberland, because it is based on populations and income, would receive $38.7 million this year and $19.4 million next year. So this is a big chunk of change. These counties and cities are just getting hammered by loss of revenue and rising expenses. That is the biggest piece of this bill.”


Trone said the package would extend unemployment benefits to January 2021. “That is a very expensive piece, but unemployment is at 15% now and it will likely go up to 20%.”


Also in the package is $100 billion for hospitals. “Our hospitals, without having elective surgery, means revenue has dried up. They had to stop that due to COVID. They have higher expenses … needing more equipment and PPE on top of less revenues.”


The package also includes $200 in hazard pay for frontline workers.


Trone said funding for the SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program also referred to as food stamps) would receive a 15% increase.


An issue Trone always champions — a problem that tragically impacted a member of his extended family — is addiction and mental health.


“I’m always driving addiction and mental health,” said Trone. “For addiction, I was able to get $1.5 billion. On the mental health side, $1 billion toward community mental health services. Think about it, we’ve had the opioid (crisis), COVID-19, and then the financial collapse. Americans are really suffering and we don’t talk about it like we should, we just don’t.”


Trone said the package includes another $4.75 billion for medical research including addictions and mental health. In addition, the funding includes $5 billion for broadband expansion.


Trone was asked what he expects the Senate to do with the package since they have already threatened to vote it down.


“There will be some compromises and trade offs in the Senate it won’t come out exactly as it is, but we have to get it done and very quickly. I am highly confident these are all bipartisan issues we see it; people are suffering.”