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Manchin, Capito, provide COVID-19 relief action updates

MORGANTOWN — As Thursday’s coronavirus news unfolded, West Virginia’s two U.S. senators provided their thoughts on events at the U.S Capitol and in West Virginia.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D, spoke to the press in an early afternoon conference call. At that time, the content of the proposed Phase 3 national relief bill – later named the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) — was still in the works.

The package should be about American workers first, Manchin said. Big corporations benefited from the 2019 Trump tax cut bill, so any assistance for them should be a loan.

But working folks need more flexibility for unemployment insurance – to make sure it tides people over until jobs and markets return. And people receiving social service checks need to keep getting them, he said.

And small businesses need relief to stay afloat, he said.

Shipments of COVID-19 testing supplies and PPEs –personal protective equipment – to West Virginia have been lagging. Manchin said he’s raised “holy Cain” about that. No other state has the population at risk more than West Virginia. “I’m raising Cain about having respirators and ventilators.”

Sen. Shelley More Capito, R, is a member of the healthcare task force, one of four working out the details of CARES. Some of it deals with PPEs and health workers she said.

The bulk of it deals with economic relief for businesses and individuals. The bill was put up for all senators to view later Thursday afternoon and talks with the Democrats were set to begin so they could get something out over the weekend.

Small business with fewer than 500 employees, she said, would be eligible for SBA-certified loans from their local lenders. If used for payroll and to pay down certain debt, they would be forgivable. “Keeping people working or keeping people on your payroll, that’s the purpose for that.”

Other assistance for could be for such things as working capital or lines of credit, she said.

Capito said that the individual help portion is still in the works. President Trump and Treasury have been discussing $1,000 and $2,000 checks to each person.

Capito said the amounts and thresholds for qualifying haven’t been decided. Everybody, laid off or not, would get a check. Checks would be capped at a certain level so those who are well off won’t get checks,

Her task force, she said, has been working to eliminate some regulations and encourage telework. They also want to loosen rules on payment options and release hospitals from some mandatory payments to keep people working.

“That’s kind of the general step to stabilize our economy and ride this thing out,” she said.

Like Manchin, she has been working with the White House and state officials to open the testing and PPE supply spigot. She had a call with the Food and Drug Administration set for Friday morning. “It has been slow but I think it’ll really pick up over this weekend.”

Capito’s office sent releases from other senators on CAREs.

CARES, the releases said, allows the treasury secretary to provide up to $208 billion in collateralized loans and loan guarantees to American industries whose operations are jeopardized as a direct result of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Of the $208 billion, $58 billion is allocated to facilitate liquidity in the airline sector, and an additional $150 billion is provided for the same purposes in other distressed sectors of the American economy.  The legislation does not provide grants to or bailouts for the airlines or other industries.

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