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Sen. Jim Risch touts benefits of $1 trillion stimulus package

Coronavirus

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WASHINGTON — The federal government is working on a number of spending bills to combat the impact of the novel coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the Senate was debating President Donald Trumps’s proposed $1 trillion stimulus package. EastIdahoNews.com spoke with Sen. Jim Risch for an update on the legislation.

He said Congress already passed an $8.5 billion bill for the development and manufacture of test kits and research on vaccines on March 5, but he believes more is needed.

“It became obvious not long after that, that this was a national emergency and was going to take a whole lot more than that,” the Idaho Republican said.

The U.S. House of Representatives created the second spending bill of more than $127 billion for emergency personal assistance for senior citizens, women and children and low-income families. Part of that was also set aside for states to cover the costs of testing.

That bill, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, was passed by the Senate Wednesday.

“Now we are working on the third bill and that’s going to be the big one. It’s got three different parts to it,” Risch said.

Senate bill seeks to boost economy in three ways

The first part has $250 billion to $300 billion for small businesses to continue to pay their employees.

“All over the country, we’re having small businesses close down. Restaurants, bars are closing down. Many, many other small businesses in the tourist industry are closing down. The people that work there are people that need to make house payments, car payments, to make rent, food, that sort of thing. We want small businesses to retain their employees,” Risch said.

RELATED | How COVID-19 is putting a dent in the eastern Idaho economy

The second part is direct payments to U.S. citizens.

“There’s a lot of people that are affected by this that are living paycheck to paycheck. That’s what this is going to be directed to,” Risch said.

He said they have not settled on an exact amount to be paid to individuals, though Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has suggested $1,000 per adult.

“My impression is people recognize this is a unique and singular event in our nation’s history, and we need to act to help people who are in distress given this terrible disease, and we will be prepared to act in a way which is not bound by financial concerns,” Romney said, according to The Associated Press.

However, not everyone is on board with the idea.

“My focus is not giving people a check from the government. My focus is to make sure you get your paycheck from your employer,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said according to The Hill.

The third part of the spending bill will give a significant amount of money to the airlines. The exact amount has not been decided.

“Airlines, obviously, are a national security industry that we’ve got to keep going. There’s a task force working on that to keep the airlines flying,” Risch said.

Once the bill is completed, he said it will be upwards of $1 trillion. He said the Senate hopes to pass the bill by the end of this week.

“We’re committed. We’re not going back home until this is done,” Risch said. “We’re not leaving here until this is done. This is a serious matter. It really needs the attention of the federal government. It’s a national problem.”

He said people need to take the virus seriously.

“We’re all in this together, and people need to pay attention to the recommendations that are being given,” he said. “The demographics tell us that younger people have milder cases, people who are older and particularly people who have an underlying condition — it can be fatal. It’s important that all of us follow the recommendations so we don’t pass it on to others.”

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