US governors call for less partisanship, more aid to fight COVID-19

WASHINGTON: Governors from both major political parties on Wednesday (May 13) urged lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to cast aside partisanship and deliver relief to US cities and states facing economic ruin as they fight what they called a "red, white and blue pandemic."

The plea followed the unveiling on Tuesday of a US$3 trillion-plus coronavirus relief package by Democrats in the US House of Representatives. The proposal would provide funding for states, businesses and families.

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Without specifically mentioning Tuesday's bill, which faces a legislative challenge from Republicans, the bipartisan National Governors Association asked Congress to deliver "urgent state fiscal relief."

"This is not a red state and blue state crisis … It does not attack Democrats or Republicans. It attacks Americans," the association's chair, Maryland's Larry Hogan, a Republican, and its vice chair, New York's Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, wrote in a statement citing the colors applied to their respective parties.

"The nation's governors are counting on our leaders in Washington to come together, put partisanship aside, and to get this done for the American people," they said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday reported 1,364,061 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 21,467 cases from its previous count, and said the number of deaths had risen by 1,426 to 82,246.

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The legislation includes nearly US$1 trillion in long-sought assistance for state and local governments bearing the brunt of a pandemic that has infected nearly 1.4 million people in the United States and killed more than 82,000.

Republicans in Congress want to hold off on new coronavirus relief until an assessment of the impact of nearly US$3 trillion in assistance that Congress allocated since early March.

"It's dead on arrival here," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said of the House bill.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday said the US response had been "particularly swift and forceful," but he called for additional spending to mitigate the effects of lockdowns that have shuttered businesses and forced tens of millions of Americans out of work.

Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, the city hardest hit by the crisis, urged US President Donald Trump, a native New Yorker who is running for a second term in November, to be "the difference maker" and back the additional funding.

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State restrictions imposed because of the pandemic remain a patchwork. New Jersey and Iowa announced tentative steps to resurrect commerce while Washington, DC, extended its stay-at-home order through Jun 8 and Los Angeles said residents could be locked down all summer.

In California, Tesla Inc reached a deal with officials to resume production at its electric vehicle assembly plant in Fremont as early as Monday, county officials said, apparently ending their standoff with CEO Elon Musk, who had vowed to defy authorities and open the plant.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, due to release a dramatically revised state budget on Thursday, said the pandemic would make the yearly fire season more challenging. He cited the danger of housing evacuees together in shelters.

California's state university system, the largest in the United States, on Tuesday canceled classes on campus for the fall semester and moved instruction online because of the coronavirus.

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