Last we checked in on our local members of Congress, Reps. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas), Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas), and Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) all promised more COVID-19 relief funding in “CARES 2.0”. But now that Republican leaders have thrown the fate of “CARES 2.0” into doubt, what are they doing to get Nevadans the help they’re still waiting for?
During a joint virtual town hall earlier today, Horsford and Lee acknowledged that prior federal COVID-19 relief bills were “not perfect” and promised to “fight like hell” for more and better resources for Nevadans.
So what are our members of Congress doing?
I know we’ve been watching a lot of Congressional town halls lately, but I promise there’s a method to my madness. As we’ve been discussing for some time, while the Families First and CARES Acts provided some resources in the form of more money for COVID-19 testing, expansion of unemployment insurance access and benefits, and the $1,200+ “corona checks” to individuals and families, there’s still much more to address in terms of state and local governments’ intensifying budget shortfalls, many Americans still lacking sufficient health care, and President Donald Trump and his apparatchiks prioritizing political graft over sound public policy (more on this soon).
Will “CARES 2.0” and/or whatever supplemental relief deal the White House and Congressional leaders are negotiating address any of these issues? Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford seemingly lowered expectations for that supplemental deal that Republicans are still trying to restrict to the Small Business Administration’s “paycheck protection plan”. While Democrats have also said they want to refill the depleted “paycheck protection” coffers, they also want more funding for hospitals and for more COVID-19 testing.
While speaking with local business leaders Shaundell Newsome (Chair of the Urban Chamber of Commerce Las Vegas), Sonny Vinuya (President of the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce), and Peter Guzman (President of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce), Horsford and Lee sympathized with local small businesses that are struggling while promising they’ll get more help coming our way.
“Gaming got screwed. Nevada got screwed in the PPP package. It was called the Paycheck Protection Plan for a reason. […] It didn’t say in the bill’s language, ‘Everyone except gaming’.”
– Rep. Susie Lee
Join a community conversation with Susie and Steven now! Conversation moderated by Shaundell Newsome, chair of the Urban Chamber of Commerce, with special guests Sonny Vinuya, President of the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce, and Peter Guzman, President of the Latin Chamber of Commerce.
Posted by Susie Lee on Monday, April 20, 2020
Early in the town hall, Rep. Steven Horsford promised, “We need to protect all of our small businesses, and I will be working with Rep. Lee to make sure all of our small businesses get the protection they need.” On the CARES Act, he acknowledged, “It’s not perfect, but we’re trying to get aid to those who need it the most: Our families, our workers, and our small businesses.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Susie Lee addressed the growing controversy involving the Trump administration’s implementation of the CARES Act’s “paycheck protection plan” that’s hit Nevada hard. According to Lee, “Gaming got screwed. Nevada got screwed in the PPP package. It was called the Paycheck Protection Plan for a reason. […] It didn’t say in the bill’s language, ‘Everyone except gaming’.”
Both Lee and Horsford, along with the rest of Nevada’s Congressional delegation, have promised to insert an amendment into this supplemental bill and/or the larger “CARES 2.0” package (that Democratic leaders still promise to release soon) to require equitable access for small gaming businesses. Before the PPP was depleted, 8,674 Nevada small business applicants received $2.01 billion in PPP aid. By comparison, Iowa and Kansas (with similarly sized populations) got just over double the PPP aid, and it just so happens that Kansas has an open seat U.S. Senate race while Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) braces for a potentially tough reelection fight.
“We need more access to testing, more resources for unemployment insurance, more cash payments, and more help to state and local governments whose budgets are being severely impacted by this pandemic.”
– Rep. Steven Horsford
While Lee and Horsford technically held this virtual town hall through their reelection campaigns, they nonetheless were mostly guarded in their criticism of Trump and their Republican colleagues. In one of the few less guarded moments, Lee vented, “We’re behind the 8-ball, and the administration was caught flat-footed on [the lack of] testing.” And on Trump’s increasingly vociferous calls to “LIBERATE!”, Lee retorted, “We need to reopen in a science-based safe manner. We need widespread testing, yet we’re nowhere close to that.”
So what will Congressional Democrats do about this? Horsford chimed in to promise that in this supplemental and/or in “CARES 2.0”, Democrats will provide more funding. As Horsford put it, “We need more access to testing, more resources for unemployment insurance, more cash payments, and more help to state and local governments whose budgets are being severely impacted by this pandemic.”
Horsford then explained why more testing is still necessary: “We need more access to tracking and tracing in order to reopen our businesses. We need test information, not just on those who’ve fallen ill to the coronavirus, but also those who are asymptomatic. Those folks were likely the ones who caused the spread.”
“We’re only as strong as the weakest among us.”
– Rep. Steven Horsford
To a large extent, Horsford and Lee signaled support for policies that a large contingent of medical and economic activists have recommended, and that a growing number of progressive activists are demanding. However when it comes to health care, Horsford touted House Democratic leaders’ plan to subsidize COBRA premiums for select workers instead of a broader solution, such as the expansion of Medicaid and/or Medicare to cover more Americans that Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) are advocating.
And despite her criticism of the Trump administration’s lackadaisical approach to testing, Lee referred to “water under the bridge” in shifting focus to securing money for more testing, even as the Trump administration continues to prioritize “messaging” over aid distribution or even simple adherence to the letter and spirit of the law.
Nonetheless, Horsford and Lee promised local business leaders that they’ll do all they can to get them the help they and the larger community need as soon as possible, including additional testing resources for communities of color who face disproportionate infection rates and severe shortages in testing and medical supplies.
Lee reassured the audience, “That’s what this is about: protecting our community, including our small businesses.” Meanwhile, Horsford reminded everyone, “We’re only as strong as the weakest among us.”
If you’re in need of medical treatment, contact your primary health care provider first. If you fear you can’t afford treatment from a hospital or doctor’s office, check with the Southern Nevada Health District, Washoe County Health District, Carson City Health and Human Services, or the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for resources in your area. For additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Direct Relief and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and to local groups like Three Square.