Weekly Columns

Help is on the Way

Mar 30 2020

The public health crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic has brought economic activity in America’s large cities and small towns alike to a grinding halt. Businesses of all sizes are being forced to close during this crisis both to protect public health and because of a shrinking customer base, as consumers are urged to stay home to reduce the spread of the disease.

The unexpected closures or dramatic scale-down for small business owners, through no fault of their own, may spell their ruin by the time this is behind us. Their employees will be among those hardest hit financially by this crisis.

Entire industries that are vital to our nation’s economic wellbeing have been crushed by this pandemic. The markets have taken a huge hit, putting the retirement security of millions of Americans in jeopardy. And it is certainly expected that our health care sector, strained to capacity, will face substantial challenges moving forward.

Congress came together to pass a bipartisan, comprehensive package that dramatically increases efforts to prevent the spread of the disease, treat Americans diagnosed with COVID-19 and support research to find a vaccine. We appropriated a surge in funding—almost eight billion dollars—behind a government-wide strategy to mitigate the spread and treat those affected.

Providing immediate funding to address the public health threat was phase one of our response. Phase two—the Families First Coronavirus Response Act—marked the beginning of our efforts to address the coronavirus’s economic impact by funding paid emergency leave for workers, making testing widely available at no additional cost to patients and enhancing food security initiatives. 

We have now moved on to phase three of our response, passing the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help individual Americans negatively affected by this crisis get by and stave off a massive economic disaster. 

The CARES Act increases our investment in hospitals and healthcare providers—the men and women on the front lines of this fight—while working to stabilize the economy and provide relief to Americans struggling in the wake of economic challenges created by this pandemic.

Checks will be sent to millions of American households to offset the financial impact of the crisis and allow for a much-needed injection of liquidity into our economy. Unemployment insurance will be expanded while stabilizing industries to prevent mass layoffs. Other steps, such as delaying federal student loans payments for six months, will be taken to help affected individuals.

Dramatic relief will be provided to the lifeblood of our economy—our small businesses—which have taken a massive financial hit. Loans will be delivered to small businesses to help continue operations, and if those funds are used for payroll and other vital necessities to maintain services, they will be forgiven. 

The CARES Act is not a stimulus plan, it’s an existence plan.

It is designed to offer immediate relief, making it such that families and individuals whose lives have been turned upside down as a result of this crisis have money they need to survive. 

We also have to create a path to economic recovery while helping individuals and families through this crisis. Americans can’t go to work. Businesses are unable to operate. Individuals are not getting paychecks. Not only do we have to help our fellow Americans through these challenging times, but we also have to make sure that they have jobs when we begin to return some normalcy to our lives.

That is the aim of the CARES Act. The magnitude of this crisis requires us to think big and act big. The CARES Act puts big ideas into action. We will get through this. We have to look after each other every step of the way until then. Help is on the way.