#Response from Sen. Chris Coons, 6/4/20 - Thank you for contacting my office with regard to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak and the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. As your Senator, I value your input and appreciate you taking the time to reach out to me.
This virus has taken the lives of over 100,000 Americans and the jobs of millions. My thoughts of sympathy are with the families who have been affected by COVID-19. For your safety and that of others, I encourage you to continue to stay informed on this issue by following all closures and physical distancing guidelines issued by the state of Delaware and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Like you, I am deeply concerned about the impact this virus will have on various aspects of our society.
All over our country, people have been asked to close their restaurants, bars, and small businesses. Workers have been laid off or furloughed through no fault of their own. While the country is facing a combined health and economic disaster, Americans are rising to the challenge. Health care workers, postal workers, and truck drivers to name a few are working long hours with their personal safety at risk.
Congress has an obligation to these workers and all Americans to ensure they are protected to the greatest extent possible and compensated for their sacrifice. My Democratic and Republican colleagues have passed four supplemental bills since the beginning of March, which provided approximately $2.8 trillion in aid to families, small businesses, hospitals, states, and municipalities among others.
Even with the support provided in the last four relief bills, there is still so much to be done to ensure that families, small businesses, and states are able to withstand this public health crisis. I am proud that my House colleagues were able to quickly pass the HEROES Act, much of which I am now advocating to include in a negotiated, bipartisan bill.
For workers, the HEROES Act includes an extension of emergency unemployment programs. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which increases a claimant’s weekly unemployment benefit by $600, would be extended through January 2021.
The HEROES Act would also extend the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides unemployment compensation to self-employed individuals, furloughed workers, and part- time workers, and the Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation, which provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits, through January 2021. The bill would provide a second round of stimulus payments of $1,200 to all adults with income under $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples), as well as $500 per child under the age of 17. Those with incomes up to $99,000 ($198,000 for married couples) would receive a reduced amount. Additionally, the HEROES Act includes $200 billion for hazard pay for our deeply valued essential workers, such as healthcare workers, first responders, and grocery store clerks.
For small businesses and nonprofits, the HEROES Act includes two changes that would provide increased flexibility for Paycheck Protection Program loans: the elimination of the requirement that businesses spend 75% of funds on payroll and an extension of the number of weeks borrowers have to spend the money to qualify for full forgiveness, from 8 weeks to 24. Given the immense financial difficulty facing small businesses, I believe that the Small Business Administration should give much more leeway to businesses on how they can allocate their funds and when they must spend them.
Finally, the HEROES Act includes $875 billion for state and local governments. Even with the $150 billion allocated through enacted relief legislation, states are faced with imminent waves of layoffs for law enforcement officers, teachers, sanitation workers, and other public sector workers. Without additional funding for states, millions of people could also lose access to unemployment benefits. The critical funding provided in the HEROES Act would help states address both the health and economic impacts from COVID-19.
While the HEROES Act is not perfect and not a product of bipartisan negotiation, waiting cannot be an option. I am disappointed that Senate leadership has not moved more quickly towards a negotiated compromise. I understand that some have genuine fiscal concerns about passing another expensive piece of legislation. In doing so, we are obligating future taxpayers to pay for the relief programs. However, given the dire financial and health impacts of the public health crisis, a bold response is necessary to revive our economy and boost economic growth in the long term. If Congress does not act forcefully enough, a more prolonged recession is inevitable, which itself would result necessarily in more public debt. I am willing to negotiate with my Republican colleagues, but we cannot delay.
There is still so much work to be done, and I will continue fighting for the health and safety of Delawareans and Americans across the country. I am hopeful and prayerful that we will get through this together.
This is a difficult time with increased anxiety and uncertainty for people. My staff and I have compiled answers to dozens of questions individuals or businesses might be facing in trying to understand how the relief legislation impacts them. We are continually updating and adding to our list of Frequently Asked Questions. at . I urge you to visit my website for updated information related to COVID-19.
Again, thank you for contacting me. It is an honor to represent Delaware in the United States Senate, and I hope you will continue to keep me informed of the issues that matter to you. You can also receive updates by following me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Response from Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, 6/23/20 - Thank you for contacting me about the federal debt ceiling. I appreciate your input and engagement on this important issue.
Since Congress put a limit on how much money the federal government can borrow after World War I, the federal government often spends more than the revenue it receives, causing the Treasury Department and Congress to address the debt limit. In each of these instances, Congress has raised the debt ceiling so the government can continue to pay its bills on time. On July 22, 2019, Congressional leadership came to an agreement with the Trump Administration to modify spending limits and suspend the debt until July 31, 2021.
I understand your concerns about removing the debt ceiling, and I appreciate you sharing them with me. I share your view that we must come together and craft responsible legislation to revamp our federal budget and reduce our nation's debt, but that it must be done in a balanced way that protects critical investments we need to create jobs, keep our country moving forward, and maintain our ability to respond to future crises.
Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts with me on this important Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me on this important matter. I hope that you will continue to keep me informed of the issues important to you, as your input helps me to better represent you in Congress. If you would like to stay up to date on my work in Delaware and Washington, you can visit www.bit.ly/LBREmail to sign up for my newsletter, "Lisa's List."
It's not clear that Rep. Blunt Rochester's staff opened and read the letter that SAFE sent. We were not writing to express concerns about "removing the debt ceiling," and indeed have consistently maintained that the debt ceiling is an ineffective control that should be abolished in favor of working harder to balance the government's budgets.