By Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith
The United States has faced war, economic hardship, and disease before. But the coronavirus has inflicted a unique and unprecedented crisis on our country.
To slow the spread and bring the coronavirus under control, extraordinary measures were adopted nationally and among the states.
In Virginia, gatherings of over ten people have been banned, non-essential businesses have been ordered to close, and schools have been shuttered for the remainder of the academic year, among other emergency measures.
These steps slow the spread of the coronavirus, but they also impact the lives and livelihoods of our region’s residents. I have heard directly from many workers, employers, and small business owners in the Ninth Congressional District about the damage done by the coronavirus outbreak
Because the extraordinary step of telling people not to work was taken, extraordinary legislative measures to help the American people were called for.
The U.S. Senate took the lead in crafting the latest bill to address the coronavirus outbreak, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
I was concerned when an early attempt to advance the bill failed because Senate Democrats were following the lead of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her House caucus. Their demands were bad policy under normal circumstances and wildly inappropriate during an emergency. Among them were carbon emissions standards for airlines, tax credits for solar and wind energy, and impositions on how states conduct elections. Such measures have nothing to do with the coronavirus.
The Senate eventually passed the CARES Act without these ridiculous demands, however, and the bill came to the House. While it contained some things I do not support, I believe overall that it meets the demands of the moment to provide economic relief to American workers and businesses and more resources to fight the coronavirus. Therefore, I supported it when it passed the House, and President Trump signed in on March 27.
Under this new law, Americans are eligible for direct cash assistance.
Individuals with income at or below $75,000 will receive $1,200; couples with incomes at or below $150,000 will receive $2,400. If you have children, you will receive an additional $500 per child.
The amount received decreases by $5 for each $100 earned above income limits, phasing out completely at incomes of $99,000 or higher for individuals and $198,000 or higher for married couples.
Income eligibility is determined by 2018 and 2019 tax returns or from Social Security Administration information for Social Security beneficiaries. Recipients must also have a Social Security number, so people dependent on Social Security and SSI will benefit but illegal immigrants will not.
The CARES Act helps employers and small businesses keep employees and stay afloat. Employers that face closure or suffer economic hardship due to the coronavirus but continue to pay furloughed workers may be eligible for a 50 percent credit on up to $10,000 of wages paid to those employees.
A paycheck protection program provides more support for employment. It would provide eight weeks of cash-flow assistance through federally-guaranteed loans, and the portions of the loans used for covered payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, and utilities would be forgiven for small employers that maintain payroll.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is required to pay all principal, interest, and fees on existing SBA loan products for six months.
Another critical component of the new law boosts resources to fight the coronavirus. It funds procurement of more personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other vital medical supplies.
Adjustments to Medicare payments will help hospitals stay open, maintain their workforces, and buy supplies.
Funding for agencies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to community health centers will go to developing vaccines, caring for patients, and other actions important to addressing the coronavirus.
I believe the measures contained in the CARES Act will help us weather the pandemic and mitigate its damage. It is a necessary and appropriate response that meets the needs of this unprecedented moment in our history.
Ninth District Constituent Services
Southwest Virginia has now experienced its first death from the coronavirus, and my condolences go to the loved ones of the deceased.
Due to the coronavirus, my district offices have largely moved to telework, and monthly traveling staff office hours have been temporarily cancelled. A staffer will still answer if you call the Abingdon or Christiansburg offices, and we will continue to process constituent casework.
With physical office services reduced, we are incorporating more technological means to accommodate constituent needs and requests. We will continue to serve you.