Congressional Corner With Joe Courtney | WAMC

Congressional Corner With Joe Courtney

Jun 25, 2020

Alan Chartock: We are in the beautiful second district of connect with Joe Courtney, the democratic congressman from that area, who we are so proud to call our friend. Hey, Joe, let's start talking about phase two of your reopening plan in Connecticut, from the Coronavirus shutdown. What does the State need right now as life slowly gets back to normal.

Representative Joe Courtney: So it's, um, if you were in the, you know, driving in the district as I was this morning, you're gonna start to see real traffic again, as people definitely are coming out of their houses, you know, some of the office, work sites are starting to again, get repopulated the governor again is still had a limitation in terms of restaurants so that it's still outdoor eating as of the day that we're talking on Father's Day that's actually going to change but again, with some pretty strict limits about how many people can can be inside of a restaurant. You know, Governor Lamont has kind of taken some hits from some groups about being too restrictive, but I unbalanced give him high marks. And frankly, the evidence is clear, in terms of the fact that, you know, the the number of positive cases and the number of hospitalizations in particular has really dropped off significantly, just like New York State. And again, the flip side of that is looking at a state like Arizona, where, you know, Governor Ducey opened up restaurants weeks ago, weeks and weeks ago, and, you know, basically put no guidelines, in effect basically told people, you know, use your own judgment, you know, about how you, you know, sit in the restaurant or whether you wear a mask, and I mean, and what are we seeing is an uptick in cases. So, you know, again, we're, I think the large public gatherings again, the PGA tournament, Hartford week after next again, that's going to be no galleries. You know, to watch Rory McIlroy and all the other golfers there, that's definitely still off limits in terms of, you know, minor league baseball and concerts and whatnot. So it's still gonna not be, you know, just pre COVID. Normal for quite a while and the casinos did do a very low key small ball kind of opening where again, if you walk into Mohegan Sun, there's a thermal imaging device that will take your picture out and spit out your body temperature, it's pretty wild, actually hitting on networks. Again, mandatory face covering, you know, no optional. They pulled chairs out of the slot machines, so that there's social distancing, people aren't going to be bunched up next to each other, and they've limited the amount of people on the floor to roughly about 30 people percent of capacity. So it's it's, you know, again, the state in the tribes had some, you know, fairly contentious back and forth. But there's some again, it's this is not look anything close to what those casinos were looking like back in February. And as a result, it's only about, I'd say a quarter of their workforce has actually returned. I mean, they still got a huge number of people on layoff.

I take it to the municipalities are letting you have it in both ears about how they need money. Is that right?

Yeah, absolutely. And if you read the Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, talking about just the magnitude of the hit on our economy, the long term horizon where he's still predicting close to double digit unemployment well into 2021 that at some point, is going to result in lower revenue for both state and local government. And that you know puts these folks who have to deliver public education, public safety, public works, public health in a completely impossible place, because they either have to lay people off or raise taxes. The center on budget priorities released a study this morning, actually noting that in the first two months, just the last two months, state and localities across the country have either laid off or furloughed 1.5 million workers. That is two times the peak number from the Great Recession back in 2009. And this is June, I mean, we still have not seen the hit in terms of commercial properties that are closing up, whether it's restaurants or retail, because we all know some of them are not coming back in the wake of the, the pandemic. And so the Heroes Act, which is a big bill $3 trillion, a trillion of it was focused on state and local financing. To me in terms of really the urgency of getting something out of the Senate, that is imperative, because if the states who cannot deficit spend, who do not have anything close to the borrowing capacity that the federal government has, if they've got to deal with this shortfall that they're inevitably going to be running into with sales tax revenue, income tax revenue, property tax revenue just falls off the table. You know, we're digging this recession a deeper hole.

Does the Senate pass the Heroes Act?

So we're already starting to see a little bit of movement. Of course, you know, McConnell, foolishly said, let the states file bankruptcy. Now, he's saying, well, we can maybe do a trillion dollar bill. Navarro, Trump's economic adviser, I guess you'd call him, he came out for a $2 trillion package yesterday. So I think again, the magnitude of the problem that the chairman of the Federal Reserve described a couple days ago when they had their latest meeting of the board, I think that it's sinking in on folks, which is that the recovery is not going to be like a rocket ship the way President Trump described it. The fact is that the ripple effect, in some ways is just starting. And we need to get that fiscal relief out there that Chairman Powell has been on 60 minutes. He's been giving speeches around the country. There's a limit, as you know, to what monetary policy can do. You've got to get more fiscal help out there if we really want to shorten this recession.

Let me talk to you a little bit about nursing homes. You know, in New York State and other places, nursing homes have been a place which people really worry about, they're worried about the pandemic, they're worried about people getting it. What's the Connecticut experience been in your district?

Well, there's been some pretty grim stories in terms of outbreaks that took place, or about two or three, where a lot of people succumbed in the nursing homes. They, in some ways got sort of pushed to the back of the line in terms of getting access to PPE. And so that put the staff at risk. And the Public Health Department, which again, I think their heads were sort of spinning back in late February, early March, when we started to see some of these nursing home cases. And it was a mess. I mean, it was just because the hospitals who would treat someone wanted to send them back to the nursing home and the nursing home didn't want to take them back. And, you know, it's a big part of the Heroes Act is focused, both policy and resources, to deal with that and of our healthcare system. Because, again, I think when you really dig down below the surface of the numbers of deaths related to COVID, again, that's obviously a place the nursing home sector where there was a high concentration and the system really just failed in a lot of ways in terms of having no sort of plan, equipment, material to deal with it. And the results, sadly are a lot of people succumbed.

So Joe Courtney only have a minute, but I want to ask you, will Americans get another stimulus payment before this is all over?

You know, my prediction is they will. And I think, if you can listen to Mnuchin, who actually came right out and said it, I think the President, frankly, is not a fiscal hawk as you and I both know, and I think he recognizes that that was extremely popular in the Cares Act, and right now he's looking for popularity. So I think there is going to be some version of some type of economic stimulus payment.

Joe Courtney we love having you on the Congressional Corner. You’re always straight, forthright, and tell us like it is, and we so appreciate it. So thanks, and the next round when you'll be back, I just can't wait.

Okay, I'll be there. Thanks for doing this.