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U.S. states seek at least $150 billion in emergency federal coronavirus aid

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group representing U.S. states on Friday asked lawmakers to provide them with at least $150 billion in federal aid to address the coronavirus outbreak, warning they face massive unpaid bills.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who are the chair and vice chair of National Governors Association, said in a letter to lawmakers that giving states aid would allow them to address “unemployment, minimizing the economic impact of business closures, ensuring all students have access to education, meeting the child care and housing needs of residents, and maintaining public transportation and social welfare programs.” States also have asked Congress to increase the federal share of Medicaid costs.

In a separate letter, Cuomo and the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania Friday asked for at least $100 billion for their hard hit region, forecasting “billions of dollars in foregone sales tax revenue” and massive declines to mass transit ridership, saying “assistance must total at least $100 billion – and likely more… we do not have the luxury of waiting for federal reimbursement — we need a cash infusion now.”

Numerous state and local transportation agencies are seeking emergency government assistance as ridership plummets and tens of millions of Americans work from home.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo told President Donald Trump on Thursday the state’s “revenue is falling off a cliff, we may need to access the capital markets for, kind of, bridge financing to deal with short-term liquidity. And some sort of a federal guarantee or federal assistance to help us do that would be helpful.”

A group representing public transit agencies this week asked for nearly $13 billion in emergency funds for systems nationwide.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which oversees two commuter railroads, subways and buses, this week sought $4 billion as ridership has fallen more than 60 percent on the subways.

MTA said in a letter it has “already committed to finding $2.8 billion in savings over the next several years. No agency of our size can find additional billions in savings equivalent to the damages we have and will sustain as a result of this pandemic. This is a national disaster that requires a national response.”

New Jersey Transit this week sought a $1.25 billion bailout after reporting a nearly 90% drop-off in ridership. The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District also appealed for emergency funds after ridership declined by 90%.

Separately, U.S. airports are seeking at least $10 billion in emergency aid and have warned they could default on bond obligations. On Friday, airports said they now estimate they will lose at least $13.9 billion this year.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Steve Orlofsky and Diane Craft)

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