Good evening. Welcome to our Week-End Update.
I want to begin our update by again thanking the brave men and women, the doctors, nurses, health care providers, police, firefighters, small businesses and countless others putting their lives in jeopardy to support their fellow Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 pandemic. I also want to again express my condolences to the families who have lost family or friends to the virus. The tide is turning, but I realize that is of little comfort to those families who have been directly affected by the loss of a closed loved one due to COVID-19.
This week, our staff and I continued to work with constituents and businesses to navigate the Covid-19 climate and transition as stay-at-home orders are lifted and many begin to return to work. This week, Governor Tom Wolf began the process of reopening Pennsylvania. The Governor announced that on May 8, 2020, twenty-four counties will partially reopen, mostly in northwestern and north-central parts of Pennsylvania. The 24 counties that will are Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango, and Warren. Click here to read the Governor’s press release.
I will continue to advocate for Pennsylvania to follow the CDC guidelines and be innovative regarding our Commonwealth's own situation as they begin to reopen. We need to be inclusive with the private sector to establish safe working standards so our economy can begin recovering in a safe manner. There is no question that we have had a very deliberate shutdown of our economy. However, we cannot cause businesses to go bankrupt and for families to go without essential needs. This is why Congress passed the CARES Act, which has proven to be a good comprehensive plan to address the economic issues caused by the virus. Governors throughout the nation must be strategic as they safely open up the economy and create revenue. We cannot afford to see states create budget deficits so large that cause many of our citizens' longterm pain.
In other business, as a member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I participated in a virtual forum to discuss “Coronavirus Pandemic Response: The Impact of Economic and Health Care Services on Homeless Veterans in America.”
I also received an update by the Congressional Budget Office receiving projections of output, employment and interest rates and a preliminary look at Federal deficits for 2020 and 2021. There is no way to minimize the impact that COVID-19 has had on our economy. Unemployment has risen and our GDP has declined. However, there are signs that indicate that our economy can and will rebound. Let us not forget that before COVID-19, the American economy, due in large part to the leadership of President Donald Trump, was humming. Unemployment was at historic lows and businesses were thriving. We will recover and President Trump and Congressional Republicans will empower the PRIVATE sector to ensure a strong recovery.
We held several tele-town halls with our constituents from the 9th District to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak, and in particular, unemployment compensation benefits. I was joined on one of the tele-town calls by Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry W. Gerald Oleksiak and Unemployment Compensation Director Susan Dickinson. I spoke about the CARES Act, which included economic relief payments and supplemental unemployment payments meant to help individuals who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. For a full recap of the call, please read this article from The Reading Eagle.
I conducted a tele-town hall with Americans for Prosperity and Concerned Veterans of America. We had a Q&A with our veteran community and discussed the many ways that the Federal government and our office are working to assist veterans throughout the 9th District during the COVID-19 outbreak. We are greatly aided in that effort by having one of the premier hospitals, the Lebanon VA, in our District. If any veteran in our District is having trouble with their benefits, please contact our office.
We also participated in a tele-town hall with the International Franchise Association and many of its members throughout Pennsylvania with Congressman Kevin Hern.
Additionally, I held teleconference calls with the community banks and credit unions throughout the 9th Congressional. Republican Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee Patrick McHenry joined me on this call to answer questions. I do want to again commend our community banks for their great effort and work related to the PPP loan process. Nothing of this magnitude is perfect, but the quantity of loans going out in such a short period of time is very commendable. Many banks are working multiple shifts and weekends. The second phase of the PPP, which began on Monday, seems to be going very well. Thus far, the average loan amount is less than $100k. It is not often that the intent of a government program is in line with the results.
The Treasurer's office issued some new FAQ's related to the PPP program that has raised additional questions. Please know that we are anticipating added guidance to many of your questions on this. Once available, we will be sure to get this information out to you.
There were also big developments related to the agricultural industry, where nearly $20 billion is being allocated via the USDA directly to the agricultural community with a good portion to Pennsylvania farmers and our dairy industry which has suffered much during this crisis. We as Pennsylvanians need to all understand the importance of our farms and whenever possible have a glass of milk. It does a body good.
As part of our continued effort to keep constituents informed regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and related issues, I conducted interviews with R.J. Harris on WHP580 (Listen by clicking here); with Jason Barsky on WILK-FM; WFMZ’s Business Matters (Watch by clicking here or on the picture below);
This Week in Pennsylvania with Dennis Owen’s on ABC-27 (Watch by clicking here or on the picture below);
C-SPAN's Washington Journal (Watch by clicking here or on the picture below);
NewsMax TV’s National Report (Watch by clicking here or on the picture below).
IN NEWS YOU WON’T READ IN THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA: The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) officially relaunched this week. After distributing $350 billion in loans to 1.6 million small businesses earlier this month, the program ran out of funds in just 14 days. Thankfully, Congress agreed to replenish the popular program.
The President signed that $310 billion funding. This week, President Trump welcomed small business owners to the White House to share their stories from the first successful round of loans in early April. Here are a sampling of their comments:
Amy Wright of Bitty + Beau’s Coffee has said that her business-saving loan “is a game-changer for us.”
Ed and Jim’s Body Shop in Pennsylvania has been in business for over 50 years. As Coronavirus forced Americans to stay home, owner Brandon Hutson had to lay off most of his workers. Now, the shop can reemploy its furloughed staff and provide each of them with a paycheck—a “live-saver for us,” Hutson says.
Tony Stafford had to furlough over 100 employees when he was forced to close the dining rooms of his 3 restaurants in Virginia. “I promised every one of [my workers] we would get through this,” he said. “When we applied and received the PPP loan, I knew that I would be able to keep that promise.”
- JD Clark is a construction and maintenance firm specializing in low-income and affordable housing. All of its contracts were put on hold because of Coronavirus. Owner Tisa Clark describes talking to one of her employees, a single mother, after securing a PPP loan. “I could just see the relief coming to her!” Ms. Clark said.
With last week’s signing, President Trump has now allocated more than $660 billion for the loan program in total. During PPP’s first run, the Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department processed 14 years’ worth of loans in less than 14 days.
These loans have helped save 30 million American jobs so far.
In non-COVID-19 related news, the revelation that evidence has surfaced that top officials in the FBI worked to set-up former White House national security advisor Michael Flynn is disturbing. This group of FBI leader are supposed to exist to investigate crimes, not to create them. In this scenario, these individuals were successful in destroying Mr. Flynn’s name, reputation and cost him his job. These horrible public servants, paid with taxpayer funds, need to be investigated and held responsible. As it appears right now, General Flynn's name and reputation should be cleared. Let's hope the media presents this story even half as much as they spent tearing down General Flynn and the President.
I want to remind you again 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 contacts for you and know that the full weight of our office will be applied to help Pennsylvanians get through this crisis.
Please continue to help out where you can. For those of you on the frontline, Shelley and I are joining a host of Lebanon County elected officials in sponsoring another Take Out On Us event in Lebanon County on March 7 from 11 am - 1 pm. We are providing lunch as a thank you to those on the frontlines. See the details below.
My son and I were in the woods at 5 am this morning kicking off the opening day of spring turkey season. Unfortunately, we are getting take-out for dinner. (See picture below)
I hope you have a great weekend, stay safe and we will see you soon.