Economic relief for individuals and businesses who are losing income because of the coronavirus pandemic should arrive within weeks, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler told reporters Monday during a telephone news conference.


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security act is a $2.2 trillion package intended to prop up a sagging U.S. economy ravaged by the impact of the virus causing COVID-19.


It’s the third bill passed by Congress targeting the pandemic since March 6.


“We are in a very strange time fighting an unseen enemy, and we have a battle on two fronts — the health care front and the economic front,” Hartzler said in a telephone news conference. “We passed the third economic relief package to provide additional funds to health care workers ... but we also provide some very needed relief to the economic front.”


While Hartzler has been touting the strengths of the bill passed last week, her Democratic opponent in the upcoming election, Lindsey Simmons of Hallsville, has criticized what she sees as its shortcomings.


In a news release the day it passed, and in a telephone interview Tuesday, Simmons said that the bill should have imposed a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments to prevent people from becoming homeless during the crisis.


The bill isn’t so flawed she wouldn’t have voted for it, she said, but it should have done more and Hartzler should be doing more as well.


With individuals sewing masks for hospitals and some providers ceasing testing because of a lack of supplies, Hartzler should be shouting for help, she said.


“I have yet to see Vicky Hartzler step up and fight for the people of her district during this time,” SImmons said.


In her news conference, the items Hartzler said would do the most good are grants and loans to small businesses and support for paychecks.


The program will assist business owners by paying ”100% of employee’s wages as well as utility expenses, rent expenses and interest on mortgage payments,” Hartzler said.


Qualifying small business owners should take this opportunity to keep their doors open, and ensure that they can pay employees, she said.


The bill also allows employers to rehire employees who were fired or furloughed as far back as Feb. 15 and pay them back wages, she said. Provided employees stay at the business through June, all portions of loans the employer used for rent, payroll or mortgages can be forgiven.


“The business has to have 500 or fewer employers ...” she said. “Most businesses, certainly within the Fourth District, would qualify and should take advantage of this wonderful program …”


Business owners can apply now through the Small Business Administration's website at covid19relief.sba.gov.


Hartzler also said Americans should start seeing direct deposit payments from the IRS in three weeks.


The act provides approximately $300 billion in direct one-time payments up to $1200 per person, based on income, and an additional $500 per child.


“As Secretary Mnuchin said this morning, he expects these checks to be directly deposited in three weeks,” she said. “This will infuse [Americans] with additional money to help them during this time.”


The bill also provides $260 billion in extra unemployment payments.


“For those on unemployment, [the bill] will provide an additional $600 a week in assistance on top of what the state unemployment benefits are,” Hartzler said.


The extension of unemployment benefits will last four months.


Hartzler couldn’t say how much of the total $2.2 trillion would make its way to Missouri, but said it would likely depend on how many businesses and individuals apply for relief.


Following the passage of the CARE Act, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated Monday that House Democrats have intentions to develop a fourth bill novel coronavirus aid package. With House Republicans initially saying they intend to wait before discussing a fourth bill, the move may suggest a brewing confrontation between the two parties.


Hartzler said she is taking a wait and see approach before considering a fourth bill. If it’s needed, she wants to see more protections given to small businesses, and potentially more direct payments to individuals.


“If we do have to have a fourth package several months from now, I would think more money going to the paycheck protection program would probably be something we would want to continue,” she said. “And we may have to look at more individual assistance.”


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