News Release: Vokal Speaks to White House Office on CARES Act Flexibility

NEWS RELEASE from the Platte Institute

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Contact: Adam Weinberg
(402) 500-0209

Jim Vokal Highlights State and Local Needs for Financial Flexibility
Platte Institute CEO Represents Midwest States in White House Listening Session

OMAHA, NE — Platte Institute CEO Jim Vokal spoke with staff from the Office of American Innovation today during a White House listening session on responses to the COVID-19 crisis with state think tank leaders. 

Vokal discussed the importance of adding financial flexibility to the CARES Act, the federal relief package which includes $150 billion of emergency funding for states and qualifying local governments, known as the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). Under the current version of the law, states cannot use the funding to back-fill losses in core revenue sources, including state income taxes, state and local sales taxes, or local occupation taxes. 

In addition, local governments with populations under 500,000 do not qualify for direct aid under the CRF, meaning only Douglas County currently qualifies for funding.

"I was charged with talking about the impact on a rural state, and I explained that in addition to having the 7th highest property taxes in the country, our region is still recovering from one of the worst floods in our history, and our agriculture producers are facing prices that are below the break-even point," said Vokal.  

"And because the CARES Act does not currently allow states and local communities to offset their gaps in tax receipts, Nebraska's property tax problems are in danger of getting even worse. Fortunately, bipartisan groups of lawmakers in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate are supporting measures to add needed flexibility to the funds Washington has already allocated," said Vokal.

In the U.S. House, the FLEX Act is sponsored by Omaha-area Rep. Don Bacon and 13 House co-sponsors. In the U.S. Senate, the Coronavirus Relief Fund Flexibility Act is sponsored by U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) 

The bills come after an April letter co-authored by Vokal and Amy Cooke, CEO of the North Carolina-based John Locke Foundation, co-signed by groups in 26 states, calling for changes in the federal relief plan.

To schedule an interview on this subject, please contact Adam Weinberg at (402) 500-0209 or  

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