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Need new deadline for states to spend CARES Act funds

Unless members of Congress find some way to compromise and give Americans, including those right here in Upper Peninsula, an early Christmas through a new round of COVID-19 relief funding, the holiday season will be adversely affected.

Among many flaws in the original CARES Act was a provision that states had to spend all the money allocated to them under the bill by Dec. 30. In March, that may have seemed reasonable.

But the powers-that-be in Washington, where money flows out like gravy on Thanksgiving Day, failed to take into account the more prudent approach many governors have taken. In state capitals, many leaders adopted the wise policy of holding onto federal funding in case of a rainier day than even that of March, when the CARES Act was enacted. As a result, tens of billions of dollars remain unspent.

State and local governments allocated CARES Act money now may face a spend-it-or-lose-it situation. Instead of conserving resources that may be needed badly early next year, they are being told to spend the cash before the end of the year.

Top leadership could take the initiative by demanding that Congress scrap the Dec. 30 deadline. Surely Republican and Democratic lawmakers can manage to agree on that.

No one can say when partisan bickering in Congress will ease enough to permit enactment of a new CARES Act. As a lame-duck president, Trump can have little influence in that regard.

But he can and should make it a priority to mobilize public opinion in favor of extending the Dec. 30 deadline. That would be the president’s opportunity to do one last, enormous service to Americans — and he should seize it.

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