U.S. Rep. Richard Neal touts benefits of proposed $2.4 trillion COVID-19 relief package
SPRINGFIELD — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, said it is imperative that another relief package be approved in order to keep the economy moving forward as the nation continues to address the coronavirus pandemic.
“Much of this is based upon the urgency of the moment for sure, but the understanding that the resurgence of the virus as we head into fall and winter would make for a slow pace of recovery,” Neal said during a press conference on the steps of the U.S. Courthouse on State Street Friday afternoon. “It’s important to point out that there will be no full scale economic recovery until we defeat the virus."
Neal, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have discussed the parameters of what the next bill could look like.
“We have made it clear that if the administration and Secretary (Steven) Mnuchin are interested in an agreement, we think we can find one," he said. “It’s also clear that the Heroes Act that was passed on May 15 has never had a response from the United States Senate. So what we are suggesting is that we go back into negotiations and try to find a path forward," Neal said.
Democrats and Republicans have not been able to agree on how much funding to provide and what areas to prioritize in this new relief package.
The latest proposal would reduce the House’s original $3.4 trillion package down to $2.4 trillion, but would also require a shorter time frame, he said.
“The parameters would be to shorten the period of time into mid-January. We can’t emphasize enough the need for unemployment insurance, hospital funding, expansion of the (employment) retention tax credit and another stimulus check round so that people are going to be able to pay for the sustenance of daily life,” Neal said.
Neal said the pandemic has had a serious affect on housing.
“If renters have trouble making the rent payments, that means people that own the properties are going to have trouble making their mortgage and tax payments, which then will offer a contagion to community bankers, credit unions and midsized banks who overwhelmingly are the originators of mortgages in America,” he said.
He also highlighted the need to fund the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, with a special emphasis on restaurants.
“We think that program worked extraordinarily well. There were 10,400 businesses in the 1st Congressional District in western and central Massachusetts took advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program and have been able to keep the lights on and their employees working,” he said. “As customers move inside to eat in the fall and winter it’s going to be a challenge... and we think we are going to have to come to the aid of restaurants.”
Neal said the Cares Act made a significant difference for Americans and he hopes an agreement can be made soon on this second relief package.
“We think the Cares Act saved the American economy and we believe that its imperative that we proceed now with another round of relief, with a plan in place as we prepare to defeat the virus,” he said.