Yvonne Wingett Sanchez
With negotiations starting in earnest on the next round of federal coronavirus relief, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema outlined the public health and small business support she would like included, while Sen. Martha McSally told The Arizona Republic she supports continuation of expanded unemployment benefits.
In a letter to Senate leadership this week, Sinema wrote she is “deeply alarmed by the rising numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and death rates” in Arizona, a coronavirus hot spot where almost 3,000 people have died.
The Arizona Democrat said she wants the package to include funding for increased testing, infection-tracking and medical protection equipment and more funding of the Paycheck Protection Program that has helped small businesses and giant companies stay afloat during the state-by-state shutdowns that have ravaged the economy.
She wants the next round of financial aid to include her pieces of bipartisan legislation that forgive all PPP loans less than $150,000, loans that provide financial help for independent restaurateurs to rehire workers, and loans that establish a workplace safety tax credit to help businesses and nonprofits implement measures to help prevent coronavirus infections.
In her letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sinema wrote she also wants the package to include elements that already have bipartisan support, including $500 billion in coronavirus relief to state, local and tribal governments; expansion of help for homeless veterans; $800 million to bolster housing and resources for families experiencing homelessness; and additional funding to ensure K-12 schools and tribal schools have increased funding to pay for Wi-Fi hot spots, modems, routers and devices for effective online learning.
Her priorities, she wrote, reflect what she is hearing in regular calls with Arizona constituents.
“Our public health and the health of our economy are inseparable; economic security for hardworking Arizonans can only be achieved with comprehensive and effective management of the SARS-CoV-2 health pandemic,” she wrote.
Congress plans 2nd round of economic help
Her letter comes as McConnell said on the Senate floor on Tuesday that GOP lawmakers would support additional, targeted help for small businesses and a second round of direct payments to American families.
“This crisis is far from over,” McConnell said, adding that another round of economic help is warranted to help the fragile economy recover. The focus of the next package, he said, will be kids, jobs, and health care.
“As I’ve said for months,” he said, “the next recovery package will include strong legal protections for the health care workers who save strangers’ lives and the schools, colleges, charities and businesses that want to reopen.”
On Monday, congressional leaders met with President Donald Trump and White House officials as they sprint toward passage of a package before expanded unemployment benefits expire July 31.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said on Monday that a payroll tax holiday, which Trump wants, and another round of direct payments to families could be included in the next package. Talks resumed Tuesday.
McSally pledges to assist those who have lost jobs
In a statement to The Republic Tuesday, Sen. Martha McSally’s spokeswoman Amy Lawrence said the Arizona Republican is “deeply engaged” on helping to craft the next relief package. Her focus is on assisting those who have lost jobs or have been furloughed.
“She enthusiastically fought for direct financial support for Arizonans in the CARES Act and plans to continue to support impacted workers moving forward, including expanded unemployment benefits,” Lawrence said. “Sen. McSally believes that a great American comeback is just over the horizon, but that unemployed and underemployed Arizonans are going to need more support as we battle this virus with continued restrictions on many job sectors.”
McSally earlier had pushed for legislation that would provide vacation tax credits.
Last month, McSally introduced a bill that would provide income tax credits for anyone taking vacations through 2022. The credit would be $4,000 for an individual, $8,000 for a couple and $500 for each child.
Her idea, intended to boost economic recovery for the hard-hit tourism industry, was criticized by some for subsidizing vacations for the wealthy.
“If Americans aren’t traveling, then millions of other Americans have no job to go back to,” McSally said in a written statement last month about the bill.
“That means millions of Americans are unable to provide for their families, including paying rent or a mortgage, health care costs, or buying groceries,” she said. “My bill allows Americans to keep more of their hard earned money and use it into next year to visit grandma and grandpa, take a trip to the Grand Canyon, and so much more, when it is safe to do so.”
The White House’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, touted McSally’s legislation as a proposal that could be included in the next-round stimulus package.