Manchin, Capito hope stimulus package calms nerves
PARKERSBURG — West Virginia’s two senators hope a $2 trillion relief package will help fight the coronavirus pandemic and keep the economy afloat during the crisis.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said the health of the nation — and not the economy — was the focus while his Republican counterpart, Sen. Shelley Capito, summed up the agreement in four different categories: small business relief, larger business relief, individual relief and a catch-all relief.
“It’s been a very action-packed last few hours here, we have finally reached an agreement,” Capito said during a press call Wednesday. “There are a lot of good bipartisan ideas in here.”
HR 748, the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, was unanimously approved by the Senate late Wednesday night. It now goes to the House.
The deal would provide $1,200 to each adult in the nation earning less than $75,000 a year, and $2,400 for married couples earning less than $150,000, along with a $500 supplement for children under 17.
It also includes expanded unemployment benefits of up to $600 per week, and this money could get into the hands of those who need it much quicker, as soon as next week, Manchin said.
“This is not an economic crisis, but we want to avert it from becoming an economic crisis,” Manchin said during his own press call. “This is a health crisis. We’ve got to attack the health problem, and get confidence in the people that you can get treatment — that if you do get the virus, there is a treatment for it.
“Until that all happens, people are trying to stay alive and afloat. They can’t pay their rent. They can’t pay their mortgage payment. They can’t pay their employees. We are back-filling all of that to keep them in position so that when they do come back, they come back as strong as possible.”
The legislation also contains $500 billion for large industries, $367 billion in loans for small businesses, $150 billion for state and local governments and $130 billion to assist hospitals. Part-time workers and independent employees in the “gig economy” not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits will be provided for under the bill, he said.
Small business owners are encouraged to speak with their lenders and start a conversation about a loan to be able to keep employees on payroll, Capito said.
Loans would also cover any operating expenses for the businesses. Nonprofits with less than 500 employees would also be eligible for the small business loan. For businesses with 500 or more employees, they would also have access to a loan to sustain their business through the Department of Treasury.
Manchin said he didn’t believe an earlier version of the bill had the proper emphasis. He said it did not contain enough money to assist hospitals and combat the coronavirus’ spread across the nation, or assist workers and business.
Democrats fought to increase the amount of money going to hospitals, increase Medicare payments and place protections for health care workers, he said.
“We put money in it for (health care workers) because if you can’t stop this virus, and build confidence back in people that they will have a place to go for treatment (if they do get the coronavirus). That is what we had to stabilize. That is why we put so much effort in this,” Manchin said.
“We’re helping people on the front lines first. This is about working people trying to work, and it is a shame it had to be political. Mitch McConnell — once he got control of the floor — we couldn’t get anything done. Thank goodness in the end it all came together. Everyone should take credit for a good piece of legislation.”
For retirement accounts, Capito said the funds can be withdrawn before the age of 59 without penalty this year if the situation is COVID-19 related.
For the catch-all category, $100 billion would be set aside for hospitals, city, counties and states.
“That’s good news for the governor and the state legislature. We have to balance out our budget,” Capito said.
On the medical side, financial support would help with the development of a vaccine and in the meantime, utilizing drugs that could help “to fast forward and get … results,” Capito said.
Some additional monies in that category would be set aside for the upcoming election for absentee or mail in ballots.
Through this process, Capito said she and Manchin continue to work together.
Meanwhile, Manchin said a vaccine to fight the disease must be created to truly cure the nation and the economy.
“People have to have the confidence to get out of their homes and start moving around,” he said. “For now, all they can do is ride this out. We’ll be fine. We’ll make it. We have to. The economy has been strong, and it will be strong again.”