By Brandon Martin
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Alexandria, discussed what he would like to see in the next round of coronavirus relief from the federal government during an Aug. 6 remote press conference.
Along with other economic assistance, Warner said he is working on the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act to provide a $17.9 billion investment in low-income and minority communities.
Warner said the legislation would provide eligible community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) with capital, liquidity, and operational capacity, to expand the flow of credit into underserved communities.
By working through some of these smaller institutions, CDFIs can spend time addressing the needs of “not just underserved urban communities but rural ones as well.”
Warner said that they are beneficial because “they can provide more flexible terms and they are willing to work with smaller clients.”
He said the legislation won’t start any new programs. Instead, it will “be taking programs put into place for larger banks” following the 2008 economic recession. Similar to other stimulus efforts, Warner said the goal is that ultimately “the money will be returned to the Treasury.”
“This is a structural change to help not only in the short term but long term as well,” Warner said.
In addition to helping small businesses stay afloat and expand operations, the act also provides affordable access to credit for lower income borrowers. Warner hopes to include the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act in any upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation to help hard-hit communities weather and recover from the economic blow of the pandemic.
According to Warner, this week was the 20th week where new weekly UI claims were over a million.
“We are clearly in the midst of an economic catastrophe,” he added. “The CARES Act kept the economy afloat. Without continued assistance, you could see this economy fall off a cliff.”
Warner also warned of the potential crisis surrounding the end of eviction moratoriums and potentially “people not being able to feed themselves.”
Besides his efforts to stimulate underserved communities, Warner said he would like to see increased funding for education and for state and local governments in the next round of federal legislation.
Warner said that so far, there have been a million state and local jobs lost due to the pandemic.
Another of his goals is to increase funding for healthcare in the next stimulus package, specifically in the arena of testing, which he said is still “a national embarrassment.”
More work in expanding broadband to assist school’s during their first weeks of virtual learning is also a priority, and in terms of schools, Warner said that he is working on legislation to prevent any cuts to school funding should they not reopen due to the pandemic.
“The decision should be made by the local community, not from a political whim from the White House,” he said. “Withholding funding is immoral.”
Another proposal that Warner said he is supporting, alongside fellow U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Richmond, would assist independent restaurants.
“Independent restaurants are the heart and soul of the community,” Warner said of the proposed legislation that he hopes would provide $120 billion to assist restaurants that have experienced at least a 50 percent decline in revenues due to the pandemic.
“I don’t want to leave chain restaurants as our only option,” Warner said, adding that the closing of independent restaurants would have detrimental effects on downtown areas which could take years to recover.