Tuesday, April 14th, Congresswoman Liz Cheney addressed the economic impacts of COVID-19 during a webinar hosted by the Wyoming Business & Industry Federation.
Congresswoman Cheney began by calling attention to programs that provide businesses across the nation with financial assistance.
The CARES Act, recently passed at the end of March, is projected to make a significant impact on the national economy. According to Congresswoman Cheney, $2.2 trillion dollars has been appropriated to this project.
Within the CARES Act, the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program will provide resources to small businesses devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is designed to help businesses keep staff on payroll or rehire workers who have already been laid off. Cheney shared that in a little over a week, over one million loans have been accepted to receive this funding.
While this program will aid millions, funding is depleting rapidly and could run out by the end of the week. Cheney said that while roadblocks exist, Congress will continue to fight for additional CARES Act funding.
An $80 million economic impact payment will also be made to individuals through direct deposit. These payments are dependent upon last year's tax return information. According to Cheney, if individuals did not file a tax return last year, the Treasury Department will have a website prepared to accept applications.
While the CARES Act provides assistance to small businesses, Cheney revealed the federal government is also working to provide aid to businesses above the 500-employee threshold.
The healthcare industry will also receive a large portion of the CARES Act funding, $100 billion was set aside to assist hospitals across the nation. On Friday, $30 billion of this was released for use.
In Wyoming, Cheney said representatives are working to ensure the needs of rural hospitals are being met as well.
In the following weeks, Cheney predicted an increased focus from the White House on jump-starting economic activity.
Across the country, COVID-19 cases appear to be stabilizing and numbers may even decrease soon. Cheney said it is important to realize this is largely because of the social distancing measures communities have been engaged in.
President and CEO of the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, Dale Steenbergen, asked Cheney whether the administration had a plan for the day businesses return to work.
In response, Cheney predicted the transition will not occur in one day, but rather, individual states will address this in ways that make sense for them as time progresses. Guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention should be monitored closely as well.
"We need to be prepared for the unknown...we want to be careful. We cannot flip a switch and declare communities will be open" said Cheney.
As communities begin to recover, she shared hospitals need testing across the board to determine if individuals have immunity to the virus. From there, they will build confidence and will make personal decisions to engage again.
"We will work across the board to push on testing and treatment as well and make sure people have the support they need" she said.
During the call, Cheney was asked whether individuals should expect a second wave of COVID-19 later in the year. She responded that the virus is expected to become a seasonal disease, like the flu. She expects we will be living with the virus for some time and that it will not go away.
Because of this, treatments for COVID-19 will become necessary to move forward. Therapeutic treatments are already being tested and finding a vaccine has remained a fast paced, global effort.
"Let me leave you with hope there is a way forward and we will get to a point where we have the medical treatments available to deal with the virus. We will get to the point to where we deal like this like we deal with the flu. We want to make sure people are protecting their health" said Cheney.