New York Congressman Antonio Delgado held a virtual town hall Wednesday night. He talked about COVID-19 relief negotiations in Congress and answered questions on topics ranging from student debt to rural broadband.
Delgado, a Democrat about to begin his second term representing the 19th District, opened his 49th town hall addressing the status of COVID-19 relief negotiations. On recent visits to Otsego Electric Cooperative and SUNY Ulster, he heard a similar refrain.
“Everywhere I went, every group that I spoke to, the questions were always, when is that relief coming? When are we going to get the support that we need?” Delgado says.
Delgado, speaking Wednesday night from Washington, outlined the framework of the next bill.
“There does appear to be some agreement, on a bipartisan basis, to provide another round of direct payments, the amount anywhere from $600- $700. That is still, I believe, being negotiated. There also appears to be some agreement on extending the supplemental unemployment benefits to folks, again, somewhere in the neighborhood of $300, but that is still an ongoing conversation,” says Delgado. “More money for PPP which, as I’ve heard from small businesses across the district, this is critically important, critically important need. And we want to make sure that folks who’be already used PPP have the ability to circle back and reapply. I have a bill, the Paycheck Protection Program Priority Act that I want to make sure gets included in the ultimate agreement.”
“I’m also pushing for another bill that I introduced, the Small Business Debt Relief Extension Act, which basically would extend the relief that we got included in the CARES Act, which forgave up to six months of SBA loans, wiped clean, so interest, principals, fees wiped clean for six months, whether it’s a new loan or whether it’s an old loan," Delgado says. "I want to extend that for another six months into 2021. Hopefully we can get that a part of the next stimulus bill.”
The Senate has been working on a roughly $900 billion package that, thus far, contains no direct aid for state and local governments.
“That’s frustrating because that has been, for me, one of the big pieces that I’ve tried to advocate because that’s what I hear from folks on the ground, across the political spectrum, in terms of supporting our local electeds, our local governments,” says Delgado.
“So we have a state like New York that’s facing cuts, major cuts. This state funding and local funding is so, so important,” says Delgado. “Now the only good news I can take from this is is my understanding is that that are… We’ve signaled, we’ve been signaled by the Biden Administration that this is an issue that will get picked up come January so, while we don’t get something this go-round, I do anticipate that state and local funding will be addressed in the coming months.”
Todd from Ulster had a question leftover from Delgado’s previous town hall. He wanted to know what the federal government is doing to help restaurants survive the pandemic.
“I’m a big, big supporter of the Restaurants Act, which is specifically designed to create a revitalization fund, about $120 billion that would fund grants to help independent restaurants,” Delgado says.
He says the Paycheck Protection Program can only go so far as the Small Business Administration from the CARES Act forgave loans if all employee retention criteria were met, and the funds were used for eligible expenses.
“Now, what if we were able to instead base loan forgiveness on gross receipts lost comparatively, so 2019 compared to 2020, and you could say, okay, based on the decline in your gross receipts, we will forgive this portion of your loan,” Delgado says. “Well, the Restart Act is a bill that I wholeheartedly support, which would also enable small businesses, including restaurants, to not necessarily have to tie their forgiveness of their loan to their employees but, beyond that, to the gross receipt loss.”
Josh from New Paltz wanted to know Delgado’s stance on eliminating federal student loan debt. Delgado has one way to help address the $1 trillion issue.
“Big, big issue and I have introduced legislation that will address that very issue not too long ago. The Rural Revitalization Act will specifically forgive up to $50,000 of college loan debt for those individuals who can establish that their primary place of residence is in a rural community. And a rural community can be an area of less than 20,000 in population or an area of up to 100,000 but has, over the last several years, had population decline,” Delgado says. “Every single one of the 11 counties in New York 19, over the last 10 years, has experienced population decline, not to mention that we are the eighth most rural congressional district in all of the country.”
Delgado also answered questions about climate change, the First and Second Amendments and more. Delgado’s last 14 town halls have been held virtually during the pandemic.