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Reed Talks Stimulus Package, Pandemic

Tom Reed

What the next federal stimulus package will look like and the most important message to residents as the economy reopens were just a couple of the topics discussed during the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce’s Congressional Breakfast.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, joined Todd Tranum, chamber president and CEO, for an online webinar so the congressman could answer questions from chamber members. One of the topics discussed several times during the event was what the next federal stimulus package will contain.

Reed believes the next stimulus package, which would be the fourth since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be worth $1.5 trillion and will be passed sometime between Aug. 1 to Aug. 6. The congressman said he believes there will be direct aid to local communities who have suffered significant losses in sales tax revenue following the shutdown of most of the U.S. economy.

“There needs to be direct local aid to go to our communities to help with the loss of revenues and effects it has had on their budgets,” Reed said.

One question asked of Reed is if the next stimulus package will continue the weekly $600 federal unemployment benefit. Reed said one unintended consequence of the CARES ACT is that some people aren’t going back to their jobs because they make more money from the federal unemployment benefit, plus what they received from the state, than if they work. He said the next stimulus needs to disincentivize unemployment to get people back to work. However, he believes the federal unemployment benefit will be extended, but it might not be at the same level.

“Bottom line, more realistically, there will be a reduced amount of the unemployment benefit to $400 to $450,” Reed said.

Reed was asked if there will be any funding for infrastructure in the next stimulus package. He said there was an opportunity to pass an infrastructure bill between now and the end of the year, but he believes that opportunity has closed. However, he does see there being money in the next stimulus package for the expansion of broadband internet. He added that it has been made clear how important broadband is during the pandemic because of the increased use of technology when it comes to virtual meetings and telemedicine.

“That is a huge need,” Reed said about the expansion of broadband access.

Reed was also asked of the growing national debt and how to manage it as the economy starts to recover. The congressman said it will take a long time to “unwind” the $26 trillion debt. He said the best way to overcome the debt is to get the U.S. economy going again. He added that once there is 3% economic growth again, the debt won’t seem so burdensome.

“It’s going to take growth, which is the solution to the problem,” he said.

Reed was asked, “What is the most important message to business and residents as the economy reopens?”

The congressman said, even though Chautauqua County has been blessed because the viral load has been low here compared to elsewhere in the world, that people still need to practice social distancing and wear a mask.

“We all need a healthy respect for this virus. The virus is with us. It is here,” he said. “Lets all work to make sure we are working together to contain the virus as much as possible.”

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