Congressional representatives have been meeting virtually with constituent groups as a new COVID relief package is negotiated in Washington. In northern New York business interests recently heard from Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, while Vermont’s Congressman spoke to business interests in the Rutland region.
Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer is now Majority Leader. He recently met virtually with members of the North Country Chamber to discuss a budget resolution passed by the Senate in early February that included pandemic relief. “A $600 payment was already in the December bill for any person making less than $75,000 any family making more than making less than $150,000. And in the new bill that we’ve just passed the first steps of there’ll be an additional $1,400 per person. There was also $88 billion to help our schools open. In the new bill there’s another 160. The goal is to have all the schools open as healthily and as quickly as possible. And every school should be open for the whole school year by September. There’s also significant money for broadband access.”
Schumer also said small business benefit from a renewed PPP, or Paycheck Protection Program. “If you applied once you can get it again. And if you didn’t apply once or you applied and were rejected the first time you can get two shares of the PPP program. It also applies to nonprofits. We also in the new bill got money for restaurants. Let me give folks some details for the PPP. In the second PPP you have to have under 300 employees. In the first one you had to have under 500 employees. The size of the loan it’s two point five times your average monthly payroll. And the payroll requirement, which used to be you had to do 75% of it to payroll, is now down to 60. So more money can be used for things like rent and utilities and things like that.”
The U.S. House is also working on a pandemic relief bill. Vermont at-large Democrat Peter Welch met this week with the Chamber and Economic Development of the Rutland Region. He provided an update on debate over the latest coronavirus relief bill. “We’ve got to get money to the states so that they have all the vaccines they need. We have to help schools because we’ve got to get our kids back in school. And then of course there’s the economic relief. This round does have some checks, $1,400 checks and smaller checks for children. President Biden has indicated some willingness to adjust on what the terms are but a lot of folks, including middle class folks, are still reeling. It does have more help for business.”
Welch says he was among the House members who pushed for a provision for direct funds to localities. “Under this proposal Vermont would get $960 million and two-thirds of that would go to the state. But also a third of it would go directly to our cities and towns. And I think that’s really important because there’s been a lot of pressure on our local communities which have no fiscal flexibility whatsoever.”
Rutland Republican James Harrison, who sits on the Vermont House Appropriations Committee, questioned how much flexibility the state would have under that provision. “The stimulus package under consideration: any advice at this point of how much flexibility we might have in appropriating some of those funds?”
Welch: “The goal of the money is to help states and municipalities with impacts from COVID. So I think that would be something of a limitation on your flexibility there.”
Congressman Welch’s office reported that the House Energy and Commerce and Oversight and Reform committees on Friday passed key components of the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. It is expected to be considered by the full House in the coming weeks and then be taken up by the Senate.