Joe Manchin Facing Pressure From West Virginia Officials Over COVID-19 Stimulus

West Virginia officials are putting pressure on Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) to support funds for state and local government included in President Joe Biden's proposed COVID-19 stimulus package.

Leaders in the city of Bluefield are considering writing to Manchin and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in support of the $350 billion the stimulus bill will set aside to help states and municipal governments.

Manchin, who is considered a conservative Democrat, is also facing pressure from his own party to back Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus plan. He has previously said he would only vote for the package if it has bipartisan support.

Bluefield City Treasurer Kelly Davis told a meeting of the City Board on Tuesday that the city had received $402,000 for November under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act.

Bluefield received a total of $2 million in 2020. The CARES Act was signed into law in March, 2020 and contained $150 billion for state and local governments.

"I was told we should still be reporting monthly [expenses covered] to the state like we have been under the CARES funding," Davis told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

"But the funding isn't there right now, but it may come," she said.

Bluefield will receive a payment for December but there is concern that there will be no further relief in 2021. This will depend on the final stimulus package passed by Congress.

"We have one more month of reimbursement from the state," said Bluefield City Manager Dane Rideout.

Rideout suggested writing the letter to the senators, explaining that "[i]t is important to us" and the money to support municipalities "keeps falling off the plate."

The city officials are referring to $225 million put aside for municipalities from CARES Act funding by Governor Jim Justice. West Virginia received a total of $1.25 billion for 2020.

Justice, a Republican, has also come out in favor of a large stimulus package—placing more pressure on Manchin and Capito.

"Trying to be per se fiscally responsible at this point in time [...] if we actually throw away some money right now, so what?" Justice told CNN on February 1. "We have really got to move and get people taken care of."

The proposed stimulus package would provide $195 billion for state governments and $130 billion for local governments, as well as a combined $24.5 billion for U.S. territories and tribes.

Though the plan could be approved without any Republican support in the Senate using the budget reconciliation process, this would require Manchin to vote in favor and for Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the deciding vote.

The senator has expressed support for lowering the income threshold for stimulus checks, a measure that's controversial with some in his party, and stressed his desire for a bipartisan approach.

House Democrats agreed on Tuesday that Americans earning up to $75,000 a year would be eligible for the $1,400 checks. However, eligibility requirements will be tightened for those earning over $75,000.

It remains to be seen if the Senate will approve the House plan and Manchin's vote could prove crucial.

"The President remains hopeful that we can have bipartisan support moving forward. I will only support proposals that will get us through and end the pain of this pandemic," Manchin said in a statement on February 2.

"For the sake of the country, we must work together with laser focus to defeat the COVID-19 crisis, support our neighbors and communities who continue to suffer and get back to a more normal life as quickly as possible," he said.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin
Ranking Member Joe Manchin, D-WV, speaks during a hearing to examine the nomination of Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to be Secretary of Energy, on Capitol Hill, January 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. Manchin's vote may prove crucial in passing COVID-19 stimulus. Jim Watson-Pool/Getty Images