Good evening and welcome to our Week-End Update.
This week, we have continued to track the positive impact our social distancing has had in our fight against the COVID-19 outbreak, as signs have appeared across Pennsylvania and across the nation that we are beginning to get ahead of the virus. While the number of deaths has increased, some of that has to do with the reclassification of previous cases resulting in death as COVID-19 related. While we must continue to remain vigilant, it appears we are getting closer to being able to reopen our country’s economy and get people back to work in a responsible manner.
President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the entire Coronavirus task force continue to do an exemplary job. There is excellent cooperation between the federal government and state governments. It is particularly impressive that this cooperation is taking place during a crisis that requires such urgency.
I, like many, continue to be disappointed by some in the mainstream media who are attempting to use this crisis as a political tool. I wrote a series of tweets on this subject that were retweeted by Donald Trump, Jr. (See below). I get very annoyed when the mainstream media and some Democrat leaders state things that are factually and historically untrue and try to put undue blame on President Trump.
The President announced this week his task force focused on re-opening America and unveiled his three-phases of Opening Up America Again. Click here or on the image below to view the President’s detailed plan, which included benchmarks and guidelines for continued protective measures to ensure the health and safety of the American people while reopening our great economy and allowing people to safely get back to work.
Additionally, the President took decisive action in defunding the World Health Organization (WHO) for failing to do their job by not thoroughly investigating the COVID-19 situation in China. They completely failed and now they are making excuses for it. Whether their actions were done to in some way benefit China is uncertain, but they failed to do their job and the world is suffering for it. They are not entirely to blame, but significant reforms are clearly needed within the WHO.
Several credible sources have indicated that the virus originated and likely spread from a lab in China, the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This news is no surprise. The investigation into the source of the outbreak will continue. Regardless, no one can deny the Chinese government’s failure to properly inform the world of the dangerous nature of this virus.
This week, my staff and I continued a very busy schedule that centered around helping people, hospitals, businesses and banks navigate the COVID-19 outbreak. From helping businesses and banks with Small Business Administration (SBA) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to working with individuals to ensure they receive their economic impact payment; this has been another hectic and productive week. The IRS has released a new web tool to allow eligible taxpayers to check the status of their Economic Impact Payment and update their bank information by clicking here.
I am also spending a lot of time helping businesses apply and reapply for waivers to reopen after they were deemed non-life-sustaining by Governor Tom Wolf's Administration. I want to stress again that I am grateful to the Wolf Administration for being available and responsive to my many requests for information. We have open lines of communication. Nevertheless, basing closing a business on what it produces or does rather than ensuring that the business maintains a corona-safe working environment is wrong. We need to change the standard to ask businesses to maintain safe work environment requirements for the safety of their employees and customers. This approach is what will allow all businesses that maintain a safe work environment to begin opening, not just ones the government selects. The arbitrary shutdown of some businesses is a major issue in Pennsylvania... as big as any other we are currently addressing. I promise you that my team and I will continue to work to advocate for this approach and continue to support any business that is committed to proper safety standards... even if that requires a business to operate at half capacity. What truly matters is that these businesses survive safely. If they don't, we will have NO economy to recover. When small businesses close down and as consumers all start purchasing goods and services online, we are making it that much more difficult for our local small businesses to survive. Not to mention much of what is purchased online is made in China. It's the ultimate dichotomy. Like I said, the effort to help our small businesses reopen will continue to be at the forefront of my work.
I continued our conversations with the banking industry to ensure they had the information they needed to help our small businesses who need support through the various grant and loan programs available to them. As I stated last week, this is a massive undertaking for our banks as they are working to distribute a great deal of capital in a short period of time. I want to thank, particularly, our community banks in the 9th District for working overtime plus as well as the SBA team.
My team and I continue to work with our local hospitals and VA hospitals to assist where we can. Our hospitals, doctors and nurses have been under tremendous stress as they selflessly take care of patients with COVID-19 and these institutions are struggling financially. Most of their operations have been shut down, such as elective surgeries, and they have not been able to generate enough profits to balance their books. The CARES Act distributes aid to hospitals as they work through these difficult times. This funding is likely to be increased to ensure patients continue to get the best level of care available.
Another industry that is struggling is agriculture, particularly dairy. This industry has literally kept the nation fed through the pandemic. However, remember that most of their markets, like restaurants and schools, have been shuttered. That’s why I convened an Agriculture tele-townhall with fellow Pennsylvania Congressman GT Thompson to discuss the coronavirus and relief efforts toward the agricultural industry. We had participation from many family farmers from the 9th District. We were able to answer several questions about what has been done and things that are being considered to help the industry. Here is a story in The Reading Eagle that recaps our conference call.
We conducted a call with the National Grocers Association and Weis Markets to discuss the impact they see on demands and supply of goods, particularly as it is related to the dairy industry. These are difficult times and just as our first responders have stepped up, so has the agriculture and grocery industries. President Trump and Congressional Republicans want to be sure that our family farmers have the necessary tools and resources they need to serve the people of our District and stay in business.
Yesterday, President Trump and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced a $19 billion program aimed at assisting our agriculture industry. This much-needed support includes $2.9 billion to aid the dairy industry. Click here for a breakdown of the plan from U.S. Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate AgricultureAppropriations Committee.
While we have worked to address specific industries and answer their related questions, we have also continued our outreach through the media and conference calls with the citizens of our District. This week, I conducted interviews regarding COVID-19 and the rollout of the stimulus checks with Dominic Barone on Blue Ridge Cable-13, Sam Lesante on the Sam Lesante Show, Morning Buzz with Joe Reilly on WHLM Bloomsburg, a 30 minute Q&A with Jason Barsky on WILK-FM and I taped an interview on WHTM with Dennis Owens on “This Week in Pennsylvania” that will air on Sunday morning. Additionally, I taped a Facebook interview with State Rep. Jerry Knowles that will be airing soon.
IN NEWS YOU WON’T HEAR IN THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA: The SBA and PPP loan programs have run out of funds with countless applications to support small businesses outstanding. Here are the facts:
- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, along with myself, warned a week ago that the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) would run out of money and now it has.
- Congress created the PPP to help rescue small businesses and ensure workers keep getting paying workers and creditors.
- Once again, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, added other provisions to what should have been a simple and specific bill to increase the PPP fund. This delay has caused the PPP to go over its limit and funding is now being delayed to small businesses.
Thankfully, I am receiving information today that we are very close to an agreement and we remain hopeful that added funding will be available within the next few days so we can continue to support small businesses and their employees.
On Wednesday, we hosted another Take-Out event in Berwick for those in the community who could use a meal. At State Senator John Gordner's great recommendation, we were happy to partner with The Forge Pub & Eatery who prepared delicious meals. I want to thank owners Mike and Christy Monico and their staff who worked so hard prepping and preparing dinner. Additionally, I want to thank John & Rachel Coates, Darren & Julie Crispin, Greg Martz, Don E Bower, Inc., Bear Fuel, Precision Inspection Services, Advanced Auto Sales and Matthews Fuel for joining Shelley and me in hosting the event. These are difficult times, but I am hopeful that these meals are helpful to those who joined us and their families. In total, we donated 562 meals. (Pictured below with Darren Crispin and John Coates)
Before our take out event at the Forge, I participated in a Trump Victory Team to discuss the many ways we can help the Trump Campaign in Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 outbreak. We all know that reelecting the President is critical. Especially as he will likely be facing Joe Biden, who is fully embracing Bernie Sanders' policies, including a ban on natural gas production as well as support for the Green New Deal and massive tax increase. Bernie Sanders may have dropped out of the race but his ideas are alive and well in Joe Biden's campaign.
One way we can all help today is by encouraging our friends and neighbors who aren't able to make it to the polls in person on Election Day is to apply for a mail-in ballot by visiting http://vote.gop. Trust me, I do not support recent efforts by Democrats to conduct our elections solely by mail. However, the mail-in ballot program is a new no-excuse absentee ballot measure that was passed by the state legislature last year. Seeing as this is law, whether we agree with it or not, we need to make sure that we get anyone who can't get to the polls on Election Day registered to get a ballot.
Currently, Democrats have a large lead in mail-in ballot requests and they are using that as a talking point to proudly proclaim that this proves Joe Biden will win Pennsylvania. Let’s fight fire with fire, register those who can't get to the polls on Election Day a mail-in ballot and show them that we support President Trump in the Keystone State.
Please know that, particularly during these trying times, I, as well as my entire Washington and District teams, are here for you. We are available for any issues you are facing that may require our assistance, we can help make efficient contacts for you and know that the full weight of our office will be applied to help Pennsylvanians get through this crisis. Again, please stay safe and we will see you soon.