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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Treasury on Monday began giving state and local governments access to $350 billion in emergency funding from the American Rescue Plan, the department announced Monday.

Why it matters: Though the money is aimed at helping state, local, territorial and tribal governments recover from the pandemic's economic fallout, the administration will generally give them wide latitude on how they can use the funds.

  • Per a White House news release, they will be able to use the money to "respond to acute pandemic-response needs, fill revenue shortfalls among state and local governments, and support the communities and populations hardest-hit by the COVID-19 crisis."
  • Recipients can also use the funds to invest in infrastructure, provide premium pay for essential workers, and support mental health and substance misuse treatment.

What they're saying: "With this funding, communities hit hard by COVID-19 will able to return to a semblance of normalcy; they’ll be able to rehire teachers, firefighters and other essential workers — and to help small businesses reopen safely," said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.  

  • "During the Great Recession, when cities and states were facing similar revenue shortfalls, the federal government didn’t provide enough aid to close the gap. That was an error."
  • "With today’s announcement, we are charting a very different — and much faster — course back to prosperity," Yellen added.

The other side: Republicans have argued that the relief package is not tailored narrowly enough around the pandemic.

  • RNC chair Ronna McDaniel told The Hill in March that the organization would hold Biden "accountable for misleading the American people and ensuring that voters know the real cost and waste of this package."

Go deeper

Updated Aug 17, 2021 - World

New Zealand enters nationwide lockdown after new Delta case

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a June press conference. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand entered a snap nationwide lockdown at its highest level Tuesday night after a 58-year-old man from Auckland tested positive for COVID-19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced.

Why it matters: This was the first coronavirus case detected in New Zealand for nearly six months and officials were concerned the man had the highly contagious Delta variant. By Wednesday morning local time, scientists confirmed he had the Delta variant and four other people had tested positive for the virus.

New Mexico to reinstate indoor mask mandate

First Lady Jill Biden (far left) looks on as New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham gives a sticker to a woman who just received a COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Mandel Ngan/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

People in New Mexico will be required to wear face masks in all public indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status starting on Friday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The spread of coronavirus has "increased dramatically" due to the highly infectious Delta variant and still-unvaccinated populations, Lujan Grisham's office said. State modeling projects that New Mexico will reach 1,000 new cases per day by the end of August.

U.S. to advise COVID booster shots for most Americans at 8 months

A COVID-19 vaccination at New York's Stony Brook University. Photo: Raychel Brightman/Newsday RM via Getty Images

The Biden administration is coalescing around a plan to give COVID-19 booster shots to most Americans, the New York Times first reported Monday night.

What to expect: The booster shots would likely be given in the order the initial round of vaccines were administered, or around eight months after someone received the first two mRNA shots or the single Johnson & Johnson jab, a Biden administration official told Axios. This could potentially begin in late September.

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