Bucshon: Federal relief will help country recover
U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-8th, whose original profession was in health care, said he has never seen any virus affect the country like the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“This has been unprecedented,” he said. “Even if you look back through the end of February, first of March, people across the country, both politically and otherwise, still didn’t feel like it was gonna turn into the situation we have today.”
While the administration did have a ban on travel for the affected areas in China at the end of January, no one knew the virus would spread as quickly and easily as it has, Bucshon explained.
“It’s going to be a tough transition back,” he said. “But it looks like we’re getting to the point where things are going to start going in the right direction. It’s gonna be variable across the country. New York is different than Indiana, which is different than California. So there’ll be a tiered approach on the response at the end of this to try to get our economy going again.”
The country’s recovery will likely be tiered, he explained. “It will be a piecemeal reopening of the economy, so to speak,” he said. “There are certain areas of the country that have been dramatically affected by this, and some that have not. And so I don’t think there’ll be one simple answer to what we do. I think there’ll be a complicated piecemeal state-by-state assessment of the medical situation.”
Bucshon doesn’t think things will get back to “normal” for a while.
“We’re not going to get to the point where we say there’s no coronavirus cases; everybody go back to work. That’s not gonna happen,” he said. “Once we see more people are recovering, the number of people who are succumbing to this is dropping dramatically, once everybody gets back to work, I do think certain things will still be in place. Some of the social distancing, as well as things like not shaking hands and potentially still wearing masks in public will persist probably for months. And it probably should. And I think many industries will be more focused on making sure that public areas are being properly sanitized and cleaned. But I don’t think we’ll get to a point where it’s over.”
Congress, as a whole, has not been tested for the virus.
“I have not had any symptoms that would warrant testing,” Bucshon said. “We’ve had, I think, four members of Congress, including Sen. [Rand] Paul from Kentucky, who tested positive. My colleagues have tested positive based on the fact they had symptoms and went to their physician.”
All representatives and senators, along with their staff, are still working. But they are doing so remotely.
“We have not had any direct contact,” Bucshon said. “I’m sitting at home, sitting at home and not going anywhere, except occasionally to the grocery store to buy groceries.”
The last voice vote Congress took was to enact the CARES Act. “We were all dispersed around the house floor and up in the gallery to have social distancing,” Bucshon said.
The CARES Act legislation is designed to help people and businesses in this crisis.
“The gist of it is we want to make sure that individuals were taken care of, as far as their ability to pay their rent and other personal expenses,” Bucshon said. “For some of our citizens there, they will be receiving direct financial support.”
There is also a small business program, which includes the paid payroll protection program. “There’s been a few hitches. But talking to bankers and all businesses, everybody realizes that this is a massive program,” Bucshon said. “We’re working every day, both in the Congress and the administration, at the Treasury, in the Small Business Administration to make sure everyone has access to that.”
There is also a program through the federal reserve for larger companies, and help for the airline industry “specifically because the airline industry is critical infrastructure and does have an impact on national security,” Bucshon said.
He’s confident the money will get to the people and companies that need it.
“This is almost a $2 trillion proposal here that we passed, with the CARES Act,” Bucshon said. “It was done within a couple of weeks. To get this amount of support out to the economy, from the federal government in this short of a time frame is miraculous. I think people need to have some patience with this, and I understand that’s very difficult to do. But I am very confident that the money that is supposed to get out there will, in what I would consider a very, very short time frame when you’re talking about this massive of a federal support program.
“It would be nice to have something we pass, the president signs and the next day all the money goes out,” he said. “But that’s just not practically doable.”
The government also has to work to make sure fraudulent payments aren’t made.
“When you have a situation like this, where there’s literally billions and a couple of trillion dollars of federal money available, you have to ensure that it isn’t being fraudulently distributed,” Bucshon said. “Once people see that there’s a lot of federal money out there, people that shouldn’t get the money are going to try to get the money.”
Bucshon is pleased with the legislation that is being implemented so far. “We have support for our medical providers, the hospitals,” he said. “We have support for large businesses that employ millions and millions of Americans, although that’s much less generous than for the smaller businesses with the payroll protection. We’ve extended unemployment, so people who are laid off will have financial resources. I think we’ve done the best possible in this circumstance.”
Congress is looking at relief for nonprofits, which could include local chambers of commerce, he said. “I think people are looking at that situation as it relates to the payroll protection program,” he said.
Bucshon believes other stimulus packages will come in the future.
“A lot people are looking at how do we go forward, particularly on the support for our health care sector workers,” he said, “many of whom have gotten coronavirus, and there’s been some fatalities among doctors, nurses and others. How do we continue to support our health system through this in the short run, in the long run?”
He said that anyone who thinks a sector or area has been left out should express that by contacting him and his staff at email@example.com.
“Let us know what you think,” he said. “It’s a very fluid process.”