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Rowan’s congressmen discuss details of $2.2 trillion COVID-19 package

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to remove a line about people needing to file a simple tax return. Late Wednesday, the Treasury Department backed off that filing requirement for Social Security recipients who don’t usually file tax returns.

By Liz Moomey

liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — It wasn’t perfect, but the $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump was needed to quickly get money to Americans, say Rowan County’s congressmen.

Last week, President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, a stimulus package that will provide $2.2 trillion across a variety of sectors during the COVID-19 outbreak. Notably, the measure, called the CARES Act, will provide financial relief directly to individuals and families. U.S. Reps. Richard Hudson, R-8, and Ted Budd, R-13, spoke to the Post this week about the direct aid and some other components of the bill that could help local residents and businesses.

The direct cash relief is up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples in addition to $500 for each eligible child. Qualifying individuals will need to make less than $75,000 a year to receive the maximum amount. For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible.

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service said the distribution of economic impact payments will begin in the next three weeks. For most, it will be distributed through their direct deposit banking account on their latest return filed. 

The cash relief is non-taxable.

“It’s their money to begin with,” Budd said.

Hudson said he would have liked to see the stimulus package be more targeted for those that were in need.

“For example, if you work in a restaurant as a waiter, waitress, your restaurant is probably closed now and you’re unemployed and need help,” Hudson said. “If you work in the grocery store next door, you probably got more overtime than you ever wanted.”

At $2.2 trillion, the overall price tag is scary, Hudson said. And Budd said the size of the act is “just massive,” adding that he would have liked to do a series of smaller bills that were more focused, but Congress didn’t have that option.

Budd said he wished the CARES Act had spending offsets and not just all deficit spending, such as improving government software.

“Let’s fix our fiscal house and let’s have some offsets,” Budd said. “Let’s tighten our belts in the inefficient areas so we can help the people that have been impacted by the coronavirus.”

The act, though, was passed in the House and the Senate without seeing any “no” votes.

Hudson said though it isn’t perfect, there was a “need to quickly get this money to people.”

Also notable for Salisbury, the bill also provides a total of $19.6 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs and veterans programs — something for which Hudson said he advocated.

If VA is called upon by a group known as the Federal Emergency Coordination Council to care for non-veterans, it will be reimbursed through the Public Health and Social Security Emergency Fund. Funding provided in the bill for the fund assumes VA will be reimbursed approximately $4 billion.

Hudson said the VA has been taking on extra expenses because they are screening everyone that comes in. He wanted to ensure they had enough money and personal protective equipment.

Budd and Hudson said they did not like items unrelated to COVID-19 in the package, including $25 million for renovations to the Kennedy Center in Washington.

The Small Business Administration will also provide financial assistance in the form of loans to small businesses. Hudson said the funding will get cash flow to small businesses as quickly as possible so Rowan County employers can keep employees on their payroll.

The CARES Act also delays tax filing payments and forgoes penalties until July 15. North Carolina has also delayed its tax filing deadline and is working to ensure both penalties and interest on payments are eliminated for those who need until then.

Budd said he wants to keep businesses intact so once the U.S. is through the pandemic they can restart as quickly as possible and that the 3.2 million people who lost their job in March is “a devastating number.” The loans will help businesses pay their payroll and pay rent and utilities. 

A fourth phase of a stimulus package is being discussed. Budd said Democrats are for it, and Republicans are hesitant.

“I want to see that we get traction with $2.2 trillion before we commit to anything else,” Budd said. “Of course, we want to restart the economy. We want people to have their jobs and get back to work.”

Budd wants to ensure Americans are being helped by the stimulus package. Congress is walking a tight rope of  “how long do we keep the economy closed versus how do we keep people healthy.” He said they need to look at the effects day by day.

Hudson also wants to see the impact, especially thinking of the money amount of the package.

“We’ve done what we need to do in the short term,” Hudson said. “Let’s see how these programs work. Let’s the impact of $2 trillion. It’s a lot of money. It’s not you and I that are going to be paying it back. It’s our kids and grandkids that will be paying the debt back.”

If economy can start to get back to normal after April 30, Hudson said, Congress would not need to have an additional stimulus package. He wants to wait a week or two to evaluate.

Hudson said the pandemic is a trying time for America, and that he’s been thinking lately about neighbors helping neighbors, companies stepping forward to keep employees on payroll, restaurants feeding people for free and businesses making surgical masks.

“If we stick together, look out for each other, if we’re smart and listen to what the medical experts are telling us,” Hudson said. “Stay home, especially those that are at risk. We’re going to get through this and I think we’ll come out stronger.”

Budd said the U.S. is better positioned compared to 102 years ago during the 1918 flu pandemic due to advances in medicine and technology.

“We are going to get through this,” Budd said. “We’re all in this together. Let’s be prayerful and let’s be thankful for what we do have. “

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