By Lauren Schapker, vice president of legislative affairs

Congressional negotiations on COVID-19 relief legislation showed signs of life this week after months of stalemate. A bipartisan group from the House and Senate released a $908 billion legislative outline that would provide state and local aid and support for small businesses, in addition to other priorities. Like previous proposals, the framework focuses on providing economic relief rather than economic recovery or stimulus.

Legislative text has not yet been released, but the following provisions were included in the framework unveiled Dec. 1:

  • $160 billion in funding to state and local governments; portions of these funds could be directed by states to shore up state departments of transportation;
  • $288 billion in additional small business protections through support of programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program;
  • $45 billion for airlines, airports, and public transportation programs;
  • Temporary liability protection for businesses;

The proposal has many optimistic that something can be signed into law before the end of the year. The framework drew support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Previously, Democrats were unwilling to negotiate on a bill smaller than $2 trillion.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell initially expressed opposition to the framework and offered his own proposal, which was very similar to previously circulated GOP plans and did not include aid for state and local governments or for transportation. However, he and Pelosi continued to exchange ideas throughout the week to determine whether there is a path forward—a departure from pre-election dialog where Pelosi negotiated primarily with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

ARTBA continues to stress the need for transportation assistance in a COVID relief package, including direct aid for state DOTs. Tell your congressional delegation that Congress must pass a relief package with transportation assistance before the end of the year.