36 Democrat & Republican AGs Join AG Racine Requesting D.C. Be Treated As a State For Purposes of Receiving State Level Allocation For Coronavirus Relief Funding

D.C. To Receive $750 Million Less in Federal Relief Package Than States with Smaller Populations, Exacerbating Public Health Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced he is leading a bipartisan coalition with the National Association of Attorneys General and 37 Attorneys General to implore the Senate, House, and President of the United States to treat the District of Columbia as a state for purposes of receiving state level allocation of funding from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund. The Coronavirus relief package, passed by the Senate on March 26, allocates at least $1.25 billion in direct relief payments to each state, but only $500 million to the District because it groups the District together with U.S. territories. In a bipartisan letter to President Trump and Congressional leaders, 10 Republican, one Independent, and 26 Democratic Attorneys General insist that the District must be treated as any other state and that shortchanging D.C. by at least $750 million is likely to exacerbate the COVID-19 crisis. Less relief funding will also harm the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) ability to enforce critical emergency response measures, such as limitations on business operations, price gouging prohibitions, and other protections for District residents. 

The bipartisan coalition of Attorneys General write:

“Dear President Trump, Speaker Pelosi, and Leaders McCarthy, McConnell, and Schumer,

As state attorneys general, we write to express concern over the proposed allocation of funding for the District of Columbia in the Coronavirus Relief Fund in the latest relief package. The relief package allocates at least $1.25 billion in direct payments to every state but allocates only $500 million to the District by classifying it as a territory. Indeed, two states with smaller populations than the District will receive more than twice as much funding as the District.

We believe that the District should receive $1.25 billion for purposes of the relief package. The District has nearly 200 confirmed coronavirus cases, which outpaces nearly two dozen states and territories. Indeed, as a densely populated urban center, the District is uniquely vulnerable to the spread of the virus and is already experiencing significant economic loss due to the ongoing public health emergency. The District’s tourism, hospitality, and restaurant industries, along with its world-class colleges and universities, are already suffering, as are small businesses throughout the District. Restaurant sales tax revenue are estimated to be currently at 12% of normal levels with the hotel industry at 6%. Current estimates place revenue losses at over $500 million by the end of September. Harm to the District, as measured by cases of coronavirus and resulting economic losses, is among the most severe in the nation.

The District’s contributions to the federal government are unique and substantial. The District is the seat of the federal government and is thus obligated to protect the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of federal workers. Moreover, District residents pay the full panoply of federal taxes. Indeed, District residents contribute more to the federal government on a per capita basis than residents of any other state or territory. At bottom, the need in the District and the contribution of its residents to the federal fisc are significant. It is critical that the District receive the funding it needs to ensure adequate services to residents and businesses.

As attorneys general, we are charged with protecting the public interest by ensuring that the public is safe and that local businesses comply with applicable laws during emergencies. We enforce critical emergency response measures, such as limitations on business operations and price gouging prohibitions to reduce the spread of the virus and to ensure that residents have access to critical goods and services. In addition, we have worked with the courts, corrections agencies, and other stakeholders to ensure that we can maintain public safety while prioritizing public health in the criminal justice system. All of this, and everything our state governments are doing to protect our residents, requires significant resources. With decreased funding, the District government will be able to do less for its more than 700,000 residents than comparably-sized jurisdictions.

This deadly virus is not limited to any particular geographical boundary. Given the District’s connections to nearby states, jeopardizing the ability to respond to the crisis puts not only District residents but all Americans at an increased risk.

As state attorneys general, we urge the federal government to ensure that the District government receive the minimum allocation of $1.25 billion, so that the District government can protect its residents, federal employees, and all Americans. Thank you for considering our request.”

A copy of the letter is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-03/NAAG-Letter-DC-Allocation-Coronavirus-Relief-Fund.pdf

The letter was led by District of Columbia AG Racine and joined by Attorneys General from Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

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