Statement from Congressman Andy Barr on COVID-19 Relief Package and Government Funding Bill Vote

Editor’s Note: 30-second highlight clip of Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06) speaking on the House floor in support of the COVID-19 relief bill that passed tonight.  See his full two-minute speech here.

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06) released the following statement after voting in support of legislation to fully fund the government for fiscal year 2021 and provide much needed and long delayed COVID-19 relief:

“Tonight, I voted in support of critical COVID-19 relief for small businesses, families and workers throughout the United States.  For months, I have led calls in Congress to deliver more resources to the American people to defeat the COVID-19 virus and relief from government-imposed lockdowns of the economy.

“Building on the success of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Operation Warp Speed, this package makes important investments in COVID-19 vaccine distribution, delivers another round of job-saving forgivable loans to small businesses and provides much needed assistance to families, schools and healthcare providers.

“Ultimately, no amount of government spending can substitute for a fully functioning economy free of lockdowns.  However, I am confident this relief package will help bridge the gap until COVID-19 vaccines are widely distributed.”

This package includes a desperately needed second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds for distressed small businesses, including enhanced loans for restaurants, hotels, hospitality and travel-related businesses, which have experienced severe revenue reductions.  It also extends PPP loan eligibility to 501(c)6 organizations like chambers of commerce and destination marketing organizations such as VisitLex, which also have been hard hit by the pandemic, but were not eligible for the first round of PPP loans under the CARES Act.

Since early July, House Republicans attempted to force a vote on this latest round of COVID-19 relief no less than forty times.  But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked these efforts every time.  In October, the Trump Administration offered a $1.8 trillion relief package that Speaker Pelosi rejected, a decision the Speaker later admitted was politically motivated.  Tonight, Speaker Pelosi is accepting a targeted COVID-19 relief bill half that size that is strikingly similar to previous proposals by Congressional Republicans going back to this summer.  Because of this political gamesmanship, thousands of American small businesses closed their doors and countless Americans lost their jobs.

The legislation does not contain liability protections for businesses, universities and schools for which Congressman Barr has been advocating for several months.  However, the final package also does not include a series of liberal wish-list demands Congressman Barr has opposed, such as blue state bailouts for pre-COVID liabilities, economic impact payment (EIP) checks for illegal immigrants and federal prisoner releases.

Many of Congressman Barr’s priorities in combatting COVID-19 and strengthening our economy were made part of the relief bill.  Some of these include:

$284 billion in additional funds for the PPP.  The PPP provided over $5.2 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses in the Commonwealth of Kentucky since its rollout in April.
Simplified one-page forgiveness application process for PPP recipients who received loans of $150,000 or less in value.  Congressman Barr led multiple efforts in the House to secure streamlined forgiveness for small businesses, including organizing a bipartisan group of nearly 100 Members to push for this fix and co-sponsoring bills to streamline the process.
Extends for one year the relief provided to lenders from requirements under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) for Troubled Debt Restructuring (TDR) classifications on loans.  Congressman Barr actively advocated for the extension of TDR relief, noting its importance for retail and commercial borrowers.  He discussed this issue directly with Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell earlier this month and played a key role in the provision’s original incorporation in the CARES Act.
·         Provides hotels, restaurants and other hospitality businesses the ability to apply for a PPP loan that is 3.5x monthly payroll as opposed to 2.5x for other applicants.  Congressman Barr advocated for the hard-hit hospitality industry and its employees.  Congressman Barr co-authored a bill (H.R. 7809) to create a federal assistance facility for struggling commercial real estate, including hotels, restaurants and retail (that bill has over 70 bipartisan co-sponsors).  Lastly, Congressman Barr organized a letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary and the Federal Reserve Chairman requesting assistance for the hospitality industry via their existing authority.

·         Making permanent the Craft Beverage Modernization Act, legislation that includes Congressman Barr’s Aged Distilled Spirits Act, which creates a level playing field for bourbon distillers, allowing them to deduct interest expenses associated with production in the year it is paid, not when the bourbon is bottled and sold.  This provision will allow those in the Sixth District producing America’s only official native spirit to better invest in their products, their workers, job creation, and the overall success of the Kentucky bourbon industry.

·         Over $13 billion to support our farmers and agricultural sector.  This includes enhancements in assistance under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to support specialty crops and livestock producers as well as additional much needed support for our cattle producers.  Congressman Barr advocated through letters to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on behalf of cattle and hemp farmers.

$20 billion for U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.  As of November 23, Kentucky small businesses received over $1.2 billion in EIDL loans.
$48 billion for vaccine distribution in schools, small businesses and healthcare providers so we can continue safely reopening America, including $20 billion specifically for the purchase of vaccines that will make the vaccine available at no charge for anyone who needs it.
$7 billion for rural broadband initiatives, including $300 million to construct rural broadband connectivity.  Congressman Barr introduced legislation in September to enable local governments to repurpose CARES Act money for rural broadband development.
$250 million to expand telehealth services.  Working with Lexington epidemiologists and hospitals, Congressman Barr led the effort last spring to persuade the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services to expand coverage of telehealth services to include same-location services.
Other key items included in the legislation are:

Second round of EIPs, $600 for eligible individuals and their dependents.
Enhanced unemployment benefits of $300 per week.
$45 billion for transportation, including $10 billion for highways and $16 billion for another round of airline employee and contractor payroll support.
$82 billion in funding for schools and universities to assist with reopening for in-person learning that also includes $2.75 billion in designated funds for private K through 12 education.
As a senior Member of the House Financial Services Committee (FSC), and ranking Republican on the FSC Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee with oversight of the Federal Reserve and U.S. Department of Treasury, Congressman Barr also supported inclusion of a provision in the package to repeal $429 billion of unused CARES Act funding from the Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF) ensuring existing Federal Reserve emergency lending facilities are wound down consistent with existing law.  This provision, in addition to the reauthorization of $135 billion in unused PPP funds from the CARES Act, helps to pay for this COVID-19 relief bill, requiring only a net of approximately $325 billion in additional outlays.

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