San Diego Union-Tribune: Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Rep. Mike Levin hear from San Diego leaders about relief priorities
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Rep. Mike Levin heard from a variety San Diego County community members Friday about priorities for Washington’s COVID-19 relief efforts.
They discussed the need for expanded COVID-19 testing, small business relief and more financial aid for local governments.
The hour-plus Zoom discussion featured representatives of small businesses, community health clinics, labor, law enforcement, the city of Carlsbad, and postal workers. It showcased the challenges facing Americans as Congress debates its next relief bill.
After a $2.2 trillion relief package was signed into law in March, Congress has been debating its next multi-trillion dollar relief bill.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed, mostly along partisan lines, a $3 trillion relief bill earlier this month dubbed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act — or the HEROES Act. That bill, if signed into a law, would provide a second round of stimulus checks and devote $1 trillion to state and local governments facing revenue shortfalls. It also would establish a $200 billion fund for hazard pay to essential frontline workers.
Levin, whose district includes North San Diego County and southern Orange County, said the HEROES proposal would include $300 million for cities in his district that haven’t qualified for federal COVID relief before.
It seems unlikely the bill in its entirely will be embraced by the Senate and White House, though. President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have expressed opposition, with McConnell calling it an “unserious effort” and “seasonal catalog of left-wing oddities.”
Hoyer said Friday that elected leaders need to come together on COVID relief.
“The critical crisis every individual American, every individual business, every individual family is facing, deserves a quick federal response,” he said.
Most of Friday’s meeting was a listening session for community members to highlight some of the obstacles they’re facing during the pandemic.
Robert Westfall, CEO of Solatube, a skylighting company in Vista, urged a continuation of the paycheck protection program. He said a lot small businesses like his were struggling, but his company’s recent entry into the program allowed him to keep paying employees full time for the next two months.
Dr. Kelly Motadel, Vista Community Clinic Chief Medical Officer, said community health centers are struggling under unreimbursed health care expenses and lost revenues related to COVID.
Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, said first responders should be tested for COVID-19 daily, because some law officers may be asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus.
Carlsbad City Council Member Priya Bhat-Patel said federal support will be important as Carlsbad rolls out its economic revitalization program focusing on long-term economic recovery, including small business loans.
Along with allocating federal dollars to local cities, she hopes Congress will consider other aid, such as mortgage relief and more funding for mental health.
“We need the federal government to step up,” Bhat-Patel said.
“We’re calling on Congress and the president to provide direct aid to our cities to offset lost revenues and unexpected costs during the pandemic response.”
Hoyer and Levin both said they expect the federal government will work to provide aid to localities not only during the immediate crisis, but during the recovery period as well as it spans into next year.
“Obviously this is a very unpredictable virus and we’ve got to be mindful that it is a moving target and be adaptable and responsive to the needs of states, cities, counties,” said Levin.