WASHINGTON (WDTN) – The next COVID-19 relief package, passed on Monday by Congress, should be more targeted, according to US Senator Rob Portman, who discussed the legislation with reporters during a teleconference on Tuesday.
Portman said the previous package – the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act passed in March – was more of a rescue bill – getting immediate funding to people, businesses and government entities who were put out of work because of the viral outbreak. It also had emergency funding for purchasing personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. He said only half that money from the first package has been disbursed, including less than half the money that was targeted to Ohio hospitals. He would also like to see if some of the money from the first package could be diverted to struggling cities and local governments before the second stimulus is passed.
“We should see where the money is in the hand of the people who are the intended recipients and then find where the gaps are,” Portman said.
The Congressional bill, which was put together by House Democrats, would add a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks as well as additional hazard pay for frontline medical workers. It continues the $600 per week in additional unemployment insurance from the federal government for workers who have been laid off due to the COVID-19 outbreak until the end of the year. As of the now, through the CARES Act, that additional unemployment insurance would only be available through July.
Portman said he’d like to see that $600 go toward a bonus program where small business workers could go back to work and keep some of that available unemployment money from the federal government. He’d also like to see some of that money re-directed to states, which have had their unemployment insurance budgets hit with the record-breaking layoffs that have accompanied the outbreak and shut down orders.
“It would be good for small businesses because they would get their employees back,” Portman said. “And it would be a big savings to the state of Ohio which is having a hard time paying for their unemployment insurance right now.”
Portman said the Coronovirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act was more of a rescue bill and a necessary one. But the next package should focus on getting the economy running.
“The rescue was necessary,” Portman said. “It was a huge amount of spending and it was more than we appropriate a year in Congress. But what’s really important we can get things going in a safe way. So the revenues can start to flow again to individuals to businesses to hospitals.”
Portman said the package could fund some infrastructure projects. He said a good way to keep the money from being wasted is to use the funding on state projects that were earmarked but have been since shut down because of massive state gas tax revenue declines since the onset of the outbreak.
“(The states) have projects that were ready to go but the money isn’t there,” Portman said. “To me, that’s something we can fund immediately.”
The Congressional stimulus bill, called the HEROES Act, is now going to the Senate for confirmation. The legislation for the $3 trillion package can be read on the US Congress website.