October 10, 2020
This weekend, I wanted to share an overview of the state of our economy before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and how President Trump and House Republicans are working to ensure a strong recovery that puts Americans back to work and gets our economy back to par. Because the House is majority Democrat, the ideas and advocacy by House Republicans for initiatives to battle this epidemic and get our economy back to normal are largely channeled through our colleagues in the Senate who have the majority in that chamber and have a much more dominant seat at the table in negotiations with Speaker Pelosi and the White House. It is also important to keep in mind that any deal must also have the support of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as 60 votes are needed to move forward on any legislative package in the Senate. There are 53 Republicans in the Senate so 7 Democrats are needed for a deal to pass in that chamber, assuming all Republicans vote in favor.
Earlier this year, before COVID-19 reached our shores and America went into quarantine, our economy was the best in history. The unemployment rate in February maintained a 50-year low at 3.5% and was particularly low for minority populations – the jobless rates for Hispanics and African Americans reached historic lows. Median household income had reached record highs.
The pandemic, of course, brought our economy to a standstill. Almost overnight, restaurants, hotels, gyms, nail salons and countless other types of businesses were shutdown, many still to this day. Twenty million jobs were lost in the first few months alone, and our GDP in the second quarter plummeted a record 31.7 percent on an annualized basis as Americans took steps to protect themselves and others from the virus.
President Trump took immediate action to address the pandemic, and despite obstructionism from the far-left progressives in the House, Congress was able to pass the bipartisan CARES Act, which put cash relief in Americans’ wallets and provided a desperately-needed lifeline to our small businesses in the form of the Paycheck Protection Program. The PPP has supported more than 51 million jobs nationwide and nearly 130,000 North Carolina employers received forgivable loans worth almost $12.3 billion to keep employees on payroll and keep the lights on in their businesses during the pandemic.
Because of Congress’ action and the Trump Administration’s aggressive implementation of the CARES Act, the economy has been pulled back from the brink — 10.6 million jobs brought back since April, which is half the jobs lost in the first few months of the crisis.
Thanks to President Trump’s launch of Operation Warp Speed, development and delivery of a safe, fully-tested vaccine is proceeding at a historic pace. A variety of therapeutics are also being developed quickly. In fact, the drug cocktail used to help with President Trump’s rapid recovery from COVID is a result of the experimental research and work being done on therapeutics. It is also very important to note that the fatality rate from COVID has dropped by 40 percent since March. The doctors who serve with me in Congress say that such an improvement is unheard of and it speaks to the progress the medical community has made in learning how to better treat the disease.
On the economic front, my House Republican colleagues and I have been pushing for another round of PPP funding to help small businesses that are again facing the brink after expending their initial loans following passage of the CARES Act. There is still $134 billion in PPP funding available from when the program expired in August. So far, House Democrat leadership has refused to bring a standalone extension of the program to the House floor. As a result, House Republicans filed a discharge petition to bypass the Speaker. To do this, 218 signatures are required, which means we need 19 Democrats to sign. Because a number of Democrats are sitting in seats representing districts President Trump won in 2016, there are signs this maneuver is helping. As of writing this email Friday morning, negotiations on a comprehensive package have restarted with some indication that a sensible deal between Speaker Pelosi, the Senate and the White House may be near.
Up until now, they have been using the prospect of small businesses shuttering their doors and airlines going out of business for leverage to extract concessions from President Trump on a whole host of non-COVID-related issues. Their primary demand has been a bailout for blue states and cities that have been mismanaged long before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19. As another example of the things they have been asking for that have nothing to do with COVID, the last COVID bill that passed the House the other week mentioned the word cannabis more than the word jobs.
America has averted the worst of the economic crisis that could have come from COVID-19, but there is still a clear need for more assistance for our small businesses, the airline industry and others who have been so badly hurt from the economic downturn brought about by this pandemic, and the state actions that have been taken prohibiting businesses and schools from fully reopening.
As always, stay tuned to Coronavirus.gov and the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ website for the latest on the outbreak. And please feel free to send good news stories our way to highlight in this newsletter by replying to this e-mail.