U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, spoke with the Business Record over the phone about federal resources in combating the impact of coronavirus on U.S. citizens’ health and the economy. As of this morning, a bill had passed the House, but the emergency aid and economic stimulus package was still being discussed by the Senate and the Trump administration.
Here’s what Axne had to say.
I know there’s been some back and forth, but what would you feel needs to be included in an economic stimulus package for you to support it?
The House has passed our recent coronavirus 2.0, which was the Families First Act, which does include a lot of economic stimulus, specifically for small businesses under 500 people. As you’re probably aware, [it] ensures that they are able to pay two weeks of paid sick leave and then an additional 10 weeks of paid FMLA, and then get reimbursed; … if they pay their taxes, they get a tax credit. So if they haven’t paid their taxes yet, that’s one major piece that we put in place. I hope that gets included in the final package. …
I am concerned that we have large corporations that do not pay family leave — they may provide it but it’s not paid for. And so that’s one of the things that I’m continuing to work on in my office to ensure that everybody across this country gets paid family leave as we continue to see schools closed down. … Obviously, additional funding for expanded unemployment insurance is incredibly important. Right now we’ve got some funding for that and I’d like to see us relax some of our requirements like work search requirements, etc., when it comes to providing unemployment.
I just sent a letter to the [U.S. Small Business Administration] … asking that they provide businesses with more guidance on how to apply for new low-interest loans that we authorized in our first package of last week of nearly $7 billion. My concern with that is that with our small businesses … [there is] red tape that people have to get through. So I’m asking that the SBA remove any barriers to getting these loans including excessive paperwork, duplicative requirements, etc., and ensure that any verification requirements won’t be an undue burden on the IRS or other local state or federal agencies who need to spend their time focused on more pressing concerns. … So I’m asking for them to expedite approvals for assistance as much as possible. And then overall, we as an Iowa congressional delegation are going to be asking the IRS to delay the filing deadline by a month. …
This morning there was some talk about relief for the airlines. What sort of stance would you take on that?
We’re probably going to have to look at relief packages in travel areas, that’s for sure. … I want to make sure that anything that we do to support, for instance, our airlines, that they’re actually putting that effort into ensuring that they’re staying afloat and that they’re going to be able to provide the appropriate services that are necessary during this time. I don’t know exactly what that looks like. My big concern is that we just don’t provide funding without strings attached that ensure that they provide the services that are necessary for this country.
Yesterday Sen. Mitt Romney proposed giving every adult $1,000 to boost spending in the economy. Is that something that you would support?
The overall philosophy of a cash infusion for every American is something I absolutely support. I want to make sure we look at things holistically. The other thing we need to do is, as I mentioned, I want to make sure that those folks … get paid family leave. The bill that we put forth with small businesses helps folks who work in those capacities. But if you work in a company over 500 people and you don’t have paid family leave, you don’t get that support. So $1,000 will help. But it also doesn’t take care of four weeks of being without a job. If that’s the case where you need to stay home with your kid, for instance, then … it’s going to be tough to cover that with $1,000.
What kind of stipulations are you allowed to put on that? Because what if you did that and then the families just decided that they wanted to save that money or put it toward some of the expenses that are already there, not new things?
That’s absolutely one of the questions, which I don’t have an answer for at this point. Obviously, we need it for economic stimulus and to keep those families out purchasing the goods that they need. But to your point, for folks who might not need that and they stock the thousand dollars away – that’s not helping our country. So we would have to think about what does a package like that look like? … And I know that there’s already discussions on it to determine what those parameters might look like.
In terms of business leaders, business owners, what sort of advice are you giving to them right now, and what kinds of things do you want to see them doing?
I had a conversation in particular with a lot of local Des Moines businesses. … Some of the things that I’m throwing out there — landlord rent reprieve, overriding business interruption insurance. Making sure that businesses can stay afloat by looking at those types of regulations and seeing how we can adjust those to reflect the current state of this and the environment that we’re in right now. I think there’s a lot of things that we can be looking at in regard to how business operates and relaxing some of those regulations or tax burdens … and I’m going to be looking at every single opportunity we can.
Is there anything else that we didn’t go over that you think the business community should be thinking about?
The one thing [business leaders] really need to think of is safety first. I understand that sometimes that means a real concern on your bottom line. But if we don’t contain this, it’s going to be worse for everybody – in particular, our businesses who will feel the greatest impact for the longest period of time.