State delegation in D.C. all favor $484B relief bill

Apr 24, 2020
In The News

GOP lawmakers cite desperate need for small businesses across Arkansas

State delegation in D.C. all favor $484B relief bill

GOP lawmakers cite desperate need for small businesses across Arkansas

Written by Frank Lockwood
Published by Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

All four U.S. House members from Arkansas were on Capitol Hill on Thursday, voting for the $484 billion coronavirus relief package.

After flying on near-empty airlines and maneuvering through Congress’ nearly deserted hallways, they cast votes in small groups, carefully keeping their distance from one another.

Lawmakers were encouraged to wear masks.

In a floor speech, 2nd District U.S. Rep. French Hill portrayed the Paycheck Protection Program aid as vital for Arkansas business owners and employees.

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“In Arkansas, there are more than 13,000 pending PPP loan applications representing over $1.1 billion,” the Little Rock Republican said after Thursday’s vote.

“The timing for this additional funding is critical,” he said.

In an interview after the vote, he blamed Democrats for the impasse between the parties that delayed the assistance.

The money was “desperately needed a couple of weeks ago,” he said.

“Small businesses across our state will be dramatically helped by the president signing this measure into law tonight or tomorrow.”

In addition, the legislation would help replenish the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program, and provide money for rural hospitals and funding for increased testing.

Third District U.S. Rep. Steve Womack said it would be illogical to provide Paycheck Protection Program funds to one group of struggling businesses in March and deny it to similarly situated businesses in April.

“Look, if you were for it the first time, then what has changed? Nothing,” the Republican from Rogers said after voting.

“The fact is, we’ve had more businesses take advantage of it than perhaps maybe we anticipated early on, which is a good thing, because it means that these businesses are keeping their people on the payroll and not subjecting them to the hardships of unemployment and uncertainty about their jobs and their careers,” he said.

“Given the situation we’re in right now, if you can help rescue a lot of small business, that’s probably a good thing,” he said. “In the not-too-distant future, we’re going to see this economy open up, and I think this was a very important and strategic way to help accelerate the reopening of the economy when it happens.”

First District U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford said the spending package will give businesses access to capital and help them maintain liquidity.

The March aid was insufficient, the Republican from Jonesboro said Thursday evening.

“I think we underestimated the uptake, and we just needed to replenish that fund. That’s the biggest thing,” he said.

Lawmakers, he said, are “trying to make sure we maintain some continuity for these businesses.”

It didn’t make sense for the government to send money to Harvard University and withhold it from Arkansas small businesses, he added.

In his district, which includes northeastern Arkansas and a string of Mississippi Delta counties, people are doing their best to weather the storm, he said.

“They want to go back to work. They’re anxious to go back to work. They want to return to normal,” he said.

Fourth District U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, in an interview Wednesday, explained why he would vote for the spending bill.

“It’s meeting needs, real needs, that are out there,” the Hot Springs Republican said, noting the many small businesses that were awaiting aid when the money ran out.

Future spending legislation shouldn’t be rushed through, he said.

“I do hope we slow down a little bit after this and let these programs all get executed and then see how the reopening of the country goes before we jump in and just start doing more massive bills,” he said.

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