World

Groups worry about tapping Covid relief for infrastructure


Bangladeshpost
Published : 24 Jul 2021 07:41 PM

AP, Washington 

Organizations representing long-term care facilities on Friday urged lawmakers working on a bipartisan infrastructure plan to avoid dipping into Covid-relief funds to help pay for the roughly $600 billion in new spending sought for the public works buildout.

The request comes as lawmakers are struggling to finish up negotiations over the package amid stubborn disagreements over how to pay for the new spending. Lawmakers and staff are expected to work through the weekend, sorting through the flurry of tensions over funds for water resources, public transit and other details in what they hope are the final stages of their work.

The groups representing the long-term care facilities said tapping virus relief dollars would be “short-sighted, especially as Covid-19 variants continue to spread.” They noted the Delta variant that now accounts for most of the new cases and threatens “the safety of our nation’s seniors and their caregivers.”

Senators working on the infrastructure plan hope to have a bill ready to be voted on next week. President Joe Biden has made passing the bipartisan plan a top priority, the first of his two-part $4 trillion proposal to rebuild, but a Senate test vote failed this week after Republicans said they needed more time to finish the package and review the details.

Negotiators have struggled over how to pay for the new spending without raising income taxes or user fees such as the federal gas tax. They’re looking at other sources, including undoing a Trump-era rule on pharmaceutical rebates, redirecting billions of unspent dollars from last year’s Covid relief and tapping other potential funding streams.

Even if the negotiators strike an agreement, it’s not at all clear the funding sources will pass muster with the Congressional Budget Office, the chief arbiter of many bills in Congress. If the final accounting shows the package is not fully paid for, some lawmakers may balk and use that as another reason to vote against it.

“Folks will always find a problem with our pay-fors,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said on Bloomberg Television. “On the other hand, we will have it paid for and we will be able to not just pay for it, but point towards long-term gains the society, the economy will benefit from, according to multiple economists from across the political spectrum.”