Bipartisan Group Seeks to Use Part of COVID-19 Stimulus Money for Opioid Crisis

A bipartisan group of Congress members is asking the Treasury Department to let states use funding from the most recent stimulus bill to combat the opioid epidemic.

“We write to urge that any guidance clarifying permissible uses of the American Rescue Plan’s State and Local Government Fiscal Recovery Fund clearly allows recipient governments to spend those awards to combat the worsening overdose crisis,” the group wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

“State and local governments are on the front lines of responding to overdoses, a crisis intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, and they need maximum flexibility to use every resource available to them to provide mental health and addiction treatment supports,” they added.

Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), David McKinley (R-W.Va.), David Trone (D-Md.), Madeline Dean (D-Pa.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Susan Wild (D-Pa.), and Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) signed the letter.

The American Rescue Plan was passed by Democrats in Congress earlier this year and signed by President Joe Biden. The $1.9 trillion package included $350 billion for state and local governments to mitigate fiscal issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Treasury Department has not yet detailed how states can spend the money.

As of now, the department says the funding will enable governments “to continue to support the public health response and lay the foundation for a strong and equitable economic recovery.”

Opioid Addiction
A cigarette box of pills that was found with two people in an abandoned home in Dayton, Ohio, is seen in a Aug. 3, 2017, file photograph. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

“In addition to helping these governments address the revenue losses they have experienced as a result of the crisis, it will help them cover the costs incurred due responding to the public health emergency and provide support for a recovery–including through assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits, and aid to impacted industries. It will also provide resources for state, local, and Tribal governments to provide premium pay to essential workers and make necessary investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure,” it added on its website.

Additional guidance is under development.

Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate the number of drug overdose deaths in the United States has continued climbing into September 2020, the most recent month data are available for.

The leading class of drugs causing overdoses is opioids. The class includes heroin as well as synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and pain relievers that are available by prescription, such as hydrocodone.

Separately this week. a group including Reps. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) and Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) introduced an act that would fully fund a federal program, the Rural Responses to the Opioid Epidemic Initiative, aimed at curbing opioid use.

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Zachary Stieber
Author: Zachary Stieber

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