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Biden to focus on child care, state and local funding and employer assistance in economic remarks

President Joe Biden will focus in a speech Monday on how the administration is providing funding for states and localities, bolstering child care providers and helping Americans return to work safely, a White House official told CNN.

“Today the President will announce additional steps to get Americans back to work, including removing barriers that are preventing Americans from returning safely to good-paying work and taking steps to make it easier for employers to hire new workers,” the official said.

The remarks, which come after a disappointing jobs report last week, were to be made shortly after the Treasury Department launched the $350 billion Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program, which was created by the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion rescue package in March.

States, counties, metropolitan cities, tribes and territories can begin applying for their share, which could start being dispersed within days, a senior administration official told reporters Monday.

The money can be used to cover revenue shortfalls and increased expenses caused by the pandemic, including for spending on Covid-19 mitigation efforts, public health and mental health and substance abuse. The funds can also provide struggling households with food and housing assistance and help small businesses and other industries.

Noting that state and local governments have shed 1.3 million jobs since the start of the pandemic, officials said the funds will allow teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, public safety and frontline personnel and essential workers — among others — to be rehired. Governments can also provide premium pay to essential workers.

In addition, the money can be spent on longer-term improvements to communities, including investments in clean drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems and in broadband expansion.

One controversial restriction that Congress included in the provision is a ban on state and local governments using the funds directly or indirectly for tax cuts. More than a dozen Republican-led states have sued the administration over this measure, arguing that it is unconstitutional and exceeds lawmakers’ authority.

States will have to demonstrate how they have spent their allotments on eligible uses, another senior administration official said. If they want to cut taxes, they can, but they must demonstrate that the reductions were not supported by the federal funding.

“A state would simply have to show, ‘Here’s where the money went. We used it. We were not gaming in any way to indirectly free up other money for the tax relief’,” the official said. “If they meet that test, then of course they have their sovereign right as states to do whatever would like, including tax reductions.”

Addressing child care needs

The Biden administration last month sent $39 billion in relief funds to states to help child care providers stay in business or reopen, which it said is the single largest investment in child care in US history.

The money, which also came from the relief package, also aims to assist women in getting back to work and strengthen the economic revival, the White House said.

Providers can use the funds to pay the rent, mortgage, insurance, utility bills, payroll and debts incurred because of the coronavirus pandemic. The money can also be used to buy personal protective equipment and implement safety measures, such as improving ventilation. States also can provide direct subsidies to families to help cover child care costs.

Defending unemployment benefits

In his remarks, the President will also reaffirm the basic rules of unemployment insurance benefits.

Over the past week, Republican officials and some business owners have ramped up their concerns that enhanced federal unemployment benefits during the pandemic have discouraged Americans from re-entering the workforce. Montana, South Carolina and Arkansas last week announced they were terminating the pandemic benefits next month, including a $300 weekly boost and the payments for freelancers, independent contractors, certain people affected by the virus and those who’ve run out of their regular state benefits. All cited labor shortages.

Asked Friday if he thought those unemployment benefits had an impact on the bruising jobs report, Biden told reporters, “No. Nothing measurable.”

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