(Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking on behalf of all U.S. governors on Wednesday, urged Congress to include $500 billion in unrestricted state funding in a COVID-19 relief package currently under consideration.
The Democrat, speaking as the new chairman of the National Governors Association at its virtual 2020 summer meeting, said the states needed the federal government's support to weather the economic fallout from the pandemic.
Some Republican lawmakers have balked at the idea of providing funding to states, saying it would amount to a bailout of "blue states" controlled by Democrats.
"All major economists agree that without providing financial assistance for state and local governments, the economy will not rebound as quickly as it would otherwise," Cuomo said. "There has never been a moment when state governments have been more instrumental in the lives of the people of this country."
Cuomo said funding was needed to establish "unprecedented testing capacity," to pay for an expansion of contact tracing and to support "our beleaguered hospitals."
Cuomo also made a plea for a unified approach to defeating the virus across all 50 states. "We know that unless COVID is defeated everywhere, it won't be defeated anywhere," he said. "It will ricochet across the country."
The governors group has held 50 phone calls with governors across the country to discuss the COVID-19 crisis since February, and 32 times the calls were joined by either President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, the outgoing National Governors Association chair, Republican Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, said on Wednesday.
Hogan said the group successfully pushed the Trump administration to invoke the Defense Production Act to assist in the country's COVID-19 response, after releasing a joint memo in April. Trump invoked the act that month to fund the production of ventilators by General Motors Co.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Nathan Layne; editing by Jonathan Oatis)