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Cleveland.com: House approves refill of coronavirus aid fund and backs panel to oversee coronavirus spending

Cleveland.com: House approves refill of coronavirus aid fund and backs panel to oversee coronavirus spending

Sabrina Eaton | Cleveland.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a $484 billion coronavirus aid package for small businesses and hospitals, and voted along party lines to appoint a House panel that will oversee dissemination of the vast sums that have been approved to counteract the pandemic’s effects.
 
Republicans including Champaign County GOP Rep. Jim Jordan contended the oversight panel will be used to attack President Donald Trump and boost likely Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in an election year, while Democrats argued it’s needed to fight waste, fraud and abuse of the trillions of tax dollars spent on virus recovery.
 
“This is just a continuation of the attack the the Democrats have had on the president for the past four years,” said Jordan.
 
The panel’s formation was approved in a 212-182 vote that took longer than usual as members of Congress cast their ballots in shifts to allow for social distancing. Many members of Congress wore masks as they walked through U.S. Capitol, although most removed them before speaking on the House floor.
 
The House subsequently approved adding an extra $310 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program program that provides small business loans to companies with under 500 employees, which effectively become grants if the loans are used to keep workers on the payroll, make rent and mortgage payments or pay utilities. The bill approved Thursday also allots $75 billion to support the nation’s hospitals, doctors and nurses; $60 billion in disaster loans and grants for small businesses and $25 billion to support additional virus testing. The Senate approved the bill on Tuesday and President Trump has agreed to sign it.
 
Cincinnati’s Steve Chabot, the top Republican on the House Small Business Committee, said demand for the Paycheck Protection Program that was created by the CARES Act several weeks ago was so high that over 1.6 million loans were processed, worth more than $340 billion, exhausting money originally allotted for the program in two weeks. In Ohio alone, he said nearly 60,000 loans were processed.
 
“Congress should have passed this legislation last week,” said Chabot. “But to those small businesses who already applied and are waiting to hear, or those who are yet to apply for this relief, finally help is on the way.”
 
Warrensville Heights Democratic Rep Marcia Fudge agreed small businesses and hospitals need help, but questioned why the legislation didn’t increase money for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food to the needy, while Toledo Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur urged support for the bill even though it “drastically shortchanges America’s local communities and first responders.”
 
“Congress must move America forward a step at a time,” said Kaptur.
 
“The bill fails to adequately provide much needed resources to our local governments to pay for police, fire, first responders, and for trash pickup," said a statement from Niles Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan. "If we let our local governments run out of money, they will have to stop vital services that we need to stay safe and healthy.”
 
Rocky River Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez stressed that the bill would not be the end of Congress’ work in response to COVID-19. He said local leaders in his congressional district have made it clear their municipalities are in dire financial shape, forcing difficult decisions about essential services including fire and police services.
 
“While we should not bail out badly run states and cities, it is vital that we provide targeted funding to municipalities like Parma, North Canton, Medina Orville, Rootstown and Green, municipalities that have done things the right way and need our help," said Gonzalez.
 
A statement from Holmes County GOP Rep. Bob Gibbs called the extra small business funding “desperately needed.”
 
“As we work to safely re-open Ohio and the rest of our country, Congress cannot allow partisan politics to get in the way of providing critical relief to those trying to pay their workers during a crisis that has already cost 26 million Americans their jobs,” agreed Bainbridge Township GOP Rep. Dave Joyce.