Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the State Elections Preparedness Act to allow the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to waive a requirement that states provide a 20 percent match for the $400 million in election assistance grants if circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic prevent them from providing this match. This grant funding was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted in March.
“Elections are the cornerstone of our democracy, and it is vital that we safeguard this institution in the midst of the current public health and economic crisis,” said Senator Collins. “The $400 million that was included in the CARES Act will provide crucial support to state and local officials preparing for the 2020 elections, but only if they are able to access these grants. By allowing the EAC to waive the 20 percent matching requirement—which many states may not be able to reach due to plummeting revenues caused by the coronavirus—our bipartisan bill will remove a barrier to these funds and help ensure that Americans can vote safely.”
“At a time when states are facing major holes in their budgets as they fight the pandemic, we shouldn’t ask them to choose between funding critical public services and safeguarding our democracy,” said Senator Bennet. “The State Elections Preparedness Act would make it much easier for states to access the $400 million in election grants in the CARES Act, so they can keep working to ensure that every American can vote safely this fall.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced state and local election officials to make urgent preparations to ensure that every voter can safely participate in the 2020 election. In response, the CARES Act included $400 million in election assistance grants. Although the CARES Act did not specify a 20 percent match requirement for these grants, the EAC, which administers the grants, confirmed that it can only award funding to states that provide the match, consistent with restrictions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020.
As the COVID-19 pandemic strains state budgets, creating at least a $500 billion hole, the match requirement could mean that several states cannot take advantage of new election funding. In some cases, securing matching funds will require approval by the state legislature, even though many state legislatures have adjourned and have no plans to return until after the November elections. For all of these reasons, secretaries of state from both political parties have called on Congress to revisit the 20 percent match requirement.
Last month, Senators Collins and Bennet sent a bipartisan letter to Congressional leadership urging a fix to the 20 percent match requirement to make state election grants be more accessible.
The bill text is available HERE.