As Congress grapples with how to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic challenges it has created, they have largely ignored the unique difficulties facing coastal communities who rely on beach- and coastal-based tourism.
See our previous article on how coastal communities are hurting.
See our Covid Advocacy Toolkit for how you and your community can speak up on behalf of coastal counties and towns.
Congress has passed a few pieces of legislation, and introduced a number of others, that provide some benefit to local jurisdiction and/or coastal communities specifically:
(This will be updated as more legislation moves, changes or gets introduced.)
The CARES Act – The widely known, $2 trillion Covid-response bill provided $150 billion to state governments for new programs in response to Covid; it offered additional funding through FEMA which governments could use for new funding requirement to respond to Covid; and some additional funding for cities with populations over 500,000. It provided no money for state or local governments to offset lost revenue due to shut-downs and decreased expenditures. In other words, beach communities can tap some of this money to pay for things like new sanitizing requirements for opening beaches, but cannot pay for lifeguards or beach patrol rely that normally rely on local tax revenue from hotel occupancy taxes.
The Heroes Act – A nearly $3 trillion coronavirus response bill, it includes $500 billion to states and $375 billion to local governments to “replace foregone revenues not projected on January 31, 2020, or to respond to negative economic impacts of COVID.” Meaning, states and local governments could use the money to pay staff – such as beach operations officials – who may otherwise have to be let go.
The Moving Forward Act (aka The INVEST Act) – This $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill includes a $3 billion coastal grant program, and the $50 million living shorelines grant program. The coastal grant program fund projects that “restore a marine, estuarine, coastal, or Great Lake habitat…, provides adaptation to climate change.” These projects can be federally authorized (in which case the grant offsets the local cost share) or proposed by the state. This could be a tremendous new source of funding for beach and coastal restoration. The living shorelines grant program authorizes NOAA to provide grants for living shorelines projects.
Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, dismissed the Heroes Act, and called the Moving Forward Act “nonsense, [a] list of absurd House proposals“, so they seem unlikely to move in anything near their current form. However the Senate has not considered any legislation that addresses local government needs, much less the specific needs of coastal communities.
The SMART Act – This bipartisan Senate bill just focuses on funding to state, county and municipal government, providing $333 billion to states and $166 billion to local governments “to address the economic effects of the COVID-19.” Meaning this bill does mostly what the state and local funding section of the Heroes Act does, but with a lesser amount.
ASBPA is asking Congress to help coastal communities with:
See ASBPA’s letter to Congress requesting support coastal and beach communities (pdf, 267 KB).