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Rep. Scott Peters Discusses Latest Coronavirus Relief Package

 April 27, 2020 at 2:47 PM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 When Washington rolled out the first cares act late last month, some analysts said the $2 trillion relief package wouldn't be enough to help American workers and businesses survive the economic destruction of covert 19. They were right. Last Friday, the president signed an additional $484 billion bill aimed at helping employers and hospitals as lawmakers argue about what may be needed in yet another relief package. American small businesses and workers are dealing with problems and getting the money they were promised. Joining me is Congressman Scott Peters of San Diego's 52nd congressional district. Congressman Peters, welcome to the program. Speaker 2: 00:39 Thank you for having me, Maureen. Appreciate it. Speaker 1: 00:41 Can you talk about Watson, this latest release package for people here in San Diego? Like how does the region stand to benefit? Speaker 2: 00:50 As you mentioned, there's, there were issues with the pay payroll protection plan. The biggest one was with, there wasn't enough money and so a lot of these businesses under 500 employees were left out. So what we did last week was we recharged that with some more money. We also provided a $60 billion dedicated, uh, entirely to small and community banks so that when just be the big banks that got the money. So we want companies with three, 400 employees who face, you know, the loss of business and are thinking about laying off their employers. We want them to have access to this money, but at the same time we also want to make sure that some of it is reserved for folks who don't have great banking relationships or long standing banker banking relationships. And so we did that and I think that will help the region. Speaker 2: 01:41 We also dedicated a certain amount of money to testing. Uh, we understand, I think as, as your, as your listeners do that having good testing is really a key to, um, getting hold of this disease and then getting back to normal someday and that the country is far behind. Now there's supply chain issues with respect to that, with getting reagents, with getting even swabs, which seems unbelievable. Um, but, uh, federal resources will be there to, to support that effort if we can. And also to support hospitals. Uh, what's not in there unfortunately is, um, a lot of money for, um, state and local governments that we wanted to, to help, um, help with. There is some money for state and world governments. I think I heard on a report today, you reported on the 280 some million dollars that the city of San Diego got, for instance, uh, to deal with issues related to Covin. Uh, there's some ambiguity about what that covers. It does cover things like retrofitting the convention center as a, as a, um, hospital, but you know, as far as helping the MTS and the, and the fire fire responders with the new costs, that's not clear yet. And we're trying to work on making sure that, uh, that's freed up a little bit to help help with, um, those local burdens. Speaker 1: 02:57 Congressman Peters, what would say, from what Speaker 2: 03:00 you've heard is the level of economic hardship people in San Diego are experiencing? What kinds of experiences have people shared with you? Well, some people are taking it really hard and if you think about our economy, one big part of our economy is tourism. And we're not as dependent on tourism as Las Vegas is for instance. But if you were working in a hotel, you're basically out of the job. No one is traveling, hardly anyone is traveling. No one's saying in hotels. Um, that industry has been devastated and it's been a really important part of our, of our economy. We've got other economic sectors, the military for instance, uh, which is hanging in there and the um, science and technology sector. A lot of those folks are, are engaged in solving these problems, but tourism in San Diego has been particularly difficult. And, and so we're trying to work with, um, with a lot of the relief efforts and in philanthropy and working with the labor movement to make sure that those folks are taken care of. Speaker 2: 03:56 Cause they, they're the kind of workers that would never, that high paid never probably had a big bank accounts to deal with emergencies like this. Um, and they all need our help and support. One of the criticisms, as you mentioned, of the first care's bills, not enough of the money went into the pockets of the small independent businesses that really needed it. Is there any mechanism in this new legislation to ensure the money gets to those small businesses? What is it? One thing we did was, um, put $60 billion aside for community banks, credit unions, uh, smaller organizations to deal with these folks so that, um, there's, there's some guideposts on that. Uh, you know, the part of the frustration is that, you know, Congress, we can appropriate money, which we did quite a bit of it, but it has to be administered by the administration. Speaker 2: 04:47 That's basically the small business administration and the treasury department. If we had a lot of time to, to have hearings and, and think about new ways to dispense this money, we could, there's really no time for that. You know, the purpose of the, uh, of acting as quickly as to get the money out quickly to see if we can't get through this economic trough as quickly as possible and not let this recession turn into a depression. So we're stuck with these procedures and we're really imploring the administration to put this money where it's intended. We all know what it's intended for and we're counting on the administration to direct it there. And if they need support in terms of, you know, developing guidelines against executives, giving themselves raises with the money where we saw an example of that, um, or uh, using it to acquire the firms, um, we should work together to put those, guide those guideposts in. Speaker 2: 05:38 But we're really dependent on the administration to help us with that. And I think Congress would be supportive. Now, as you mentioned, again, a major issue is that there was no relief for state and local governments in this bill that just was signed last Friday by the president. And it's become a major issue of contention in Republican leader. Mitch McConnell has hinted that he could block the next stimulus package. He's gotten a lot of bad press over the suggestion that it might be okay if States file for bankruptcy. But he makes the point that with all these relief packages, the national deficit is expected to grow almost $4 trillion this fiscal year. Isn't that a problem for the nation to not in the short term? Uh, I, I think that, um, first of all it's, it's reprehensible to suggest that States should file bankruptcy. You know, they're the folks that are funding the first responders and they're also huge employers. Speaker 2: 06:34 Have you think about the biggest employers in San Diego County? A lot of them are, are, uh, government entities, uh, doing things that are very important. And this notion that we're going to save employees without thinking about the public sector is, is strategically just ridiculous. And I think his, his statements are, are totally political. And, um, I think you're responsible as far as the national debt right now, I think most experts agree that the worst thing we could do is turn off the faucet too soon. And as you know, I, Maureen, you probably know, I've been, uh, associated with fix the debt and trying to get our country on a more sustainable fiscal path where the rate of that growth of debt is, is slower than the rate of the growth of the economy. And we're not spending so much money on interest payments out of the federal budget each year. Speaker 2: 07:22 Uh, I'm going to be part of a bipartisan group that's, that's actually meaning this week to talk about, um, once we get through this, uh, to make sure that we talk about what the choices are we're going to make to, to make sure that we aren't fiscally sustainable path. But right now I think it's important to emphasize that, uh, the worst thing we could do is, is turn off this aid to quickly send the country into a, um, a depression. So we have a strong enough balance sheet to sustain this. But I agree. Um, once we get through this, we're going to have to pay even more attention to it. And part of it has to do with, uh, the tax cuts in 2017 which were made during the strong economy and added $2 trillion to the debt. So, um, Mitch McConnell's got something as far as therefore as well. Speaker 2: 08:08 Are you satisfied congressmen at the way California and San Diego County have been managing this crisis? Actually, I'm very impressed. I think first of all, the County, um, has always been the, the place where these countywide crisis crisis had been handled. I had more experience directly with the fires in 2003 in 2007. I think the County has done a really good job of getting information out and making sure that people know what's going on and are up to date on the latest trends in the community. Um, and so I think we've done, I think that the, the locals deserve a lot of credit for that. I think Gavin Newsome is one of the governors who's been, um, has been out in front of this. And frankly, I would like to see, um, the president behave a little bit more like governor Newsome, governor Cuomo in terms of things like implementing the defense production act and really getting these supply chain issues handled. I think he's been a little weaker than the governors have been. So I'm, I'm really pleased with, uh, with our governor and with our local elected officials who I think have been really trying to get it right and trying to work in cooperation and in good communication with the, with the County here. Speaker 1: 09:16 I really want to ask you this question before we have to wrap it up. What kind of efforts are underway to ensure the integrity and full participation in our elections in November? There are many people concerned about a resurgence of the virus in the fall and that working to undermine our electoral process. Speaker 2: 09:35 I spoke to a Tony Atkins, my friend and the leader of the Senate, uh, this weekend. And I know that she is really making sure that, um, that the state is paying attention to the role of, of male vote. And you know, Oregon and Washington, I think only do voting by mail. So it's possible to do that. And I think that that's the way we should go. I know the Democrats have offered to the Republicans to provide support to States, uh, who, who want to implement that. And we've heard this notion that there's a concern about fraud. I don't think there's any evidence of that. I think that's certainly where we should move. And I think, you know, I think voting is one of the most fundamental parts of a democracy. The whole thing is we, we choose our leaders. Um, and I think, um, it's a real guard against tyranny. Speaker 2: 10:23 And I, I'm surprised in a way that people aren't more aggressive about wanting to make sure that we have elections that we can rely on on the fall. I think, I certainly am. I think many of us stand ready to help States, but it is a state by state effort. I think California is going to be on top of it. I can't speak for the rest of the country, but, um, I think in Congress it should be a priority to make sure that States have the support they need to make sure that the polls work. We do not want to see a, uh, a redo of what we saw in Wisconsin where, uh, you know, had long lines of people standing too close to each other because they didn't have an alternative. I mean, democracy is about making more, making whole, making it possible for more people to vote ideally for everyone to vote and not making it harder. Speaker 1: 11:06 When are you scheduled to go back to Washington congressmen? Speaker 2: 11:09 Uh, we are not Maureen, we just got back from last week, you know, for those of us on the West coast in particular, but for all of us, um, you know, we're, we're all being told too that a safest to stay at home and if you, if your organization figure out a way to communicate and make decisions remotely, they should. I, I believe Congress should follow that advice. I think, uh, we could be participating in any of the tech technological abilities to have meetings. And we should be, you know, that should all be on CSPAN. Everyone should be able to see it. But, um, we have an oversight responsibility that it's very difficult to do as a practical matter, uh, without going to Washington under the current rules. So, um, even when we went to Washington, um, you know, we sat in our offices by ourselves or we went to our apartments by ourselves, so we need to get through that. But physically when we go back to Washington, it won't be this week. It might be as early as next week. It depends. I think, uh, how the care's to package comes along and I think we'll be called, but a lot of us are, are, are calling for the ability to participate, to participate remotely because we all have jobs to do and we don't want to be shut out. Well, I've been speaking with San Diego, Congressman Scott Peters, thanks so much for your time and I appreciate it. Thanks Maureen. Be well.

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The nearly $500 billion dollar package aims to help small businesses, hospitals and includes funding to expand testing.
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