The National Governors Association on Saturday issued a call to leaders in Washington to pass legislation that would provide at least $500 billion to stabilize state budgets.
In a news release posted to the NGA website, the organization argued that the funds are needed so that state governments can continue to provide essential services to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
"Despite this grave challenge, the recently passed federal CARES Act contained zero funding to offset these drastic state revenue shortfalls," the news release stated. "To stabilize state budgets and to make sure states have the resources to battle the virus and provide the services the American people rely on, Congress must provide immediate fiscal assistance directly to all states."
The NGA also argued that funds provided in the CARES Act that were directed to be used only for coronavirus-related expenses should have those restrictions removed to help fill the massive revenue losses that many states face with virtually no tax revenue coming in.
"Moreover, Congress must appropriate an additional $500 billion specifically for all states and territories to meet the states' budgetary shortfalls that have resulted from this unprecedented public health crisis," the NGA said. "This critical stabilization funding for states must be separate from much-needed fiscal stabilization for local governments."
The comments in the news release were attributed to the NGA chairman, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, and the NGA vice chairman, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, speaking during his weekly briefing Saturday afternoon on coronavirus efforts in his state, lauded the NGA's move to seek the funds.
"[States funds support] everything from helping unemployed folks, to small businesses to, clearly, caring for those in our health care system. I've said this now on many occasions, we are desperately in need of direct cash federal assistance directly to states, and I'm very happy that the NGA is going to make that explicit at a number which, we think, is at a minimum what is required around the country. And New Jersey needs its share of that."
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor, 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment during the week ending April 4. In a three-week span, more than 14 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits.
As of Saturday, the United States had 522,188 diagnosed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus and recorded 20,061 deaths related to COVID-19.