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Stefanik wants COVID-19 package to focus on small firms, blames China for misinformation

From the Coronavirus collection, March 7-20: Pharmacist at Queensbury CVS tests positive for coronavirus series
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U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, said Thursday that the next stimulus package should focus on small businesses, as she faulted China for not being forthcoming when the coronavirus outbreak started.

“My priority is Main Street over Wall Street. This economic relief package needs to be geared toward small businesses, the mom-and-pop businesses across the district and across the country that are the engine of our economy,” she said in a tele-town hall organized by the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce on behalf of local businesses.

Stefanik said this includes zero interest loans to hospitality, tourism and restaurant businesses that have lost customers business because of the virus.

“We need to provide relief and financial support, given the significant economic hardship we are going through as a community and a country,” she said.

Stefanik pointed out that nonprofits are also eligible for these loans.

The package could include help for families who have to find child care because schools closed, Stefanik said.

Other ideas suggested by business owners on the call are to make it easier for people to access portable health insurance plans if they are laid off and to tap into their 401k without paying tax penalties.

Stefanik said she would pass those proposals along to her colleagues.

Business owners had questions about federal legislation that granted 10 days of paid sick leave to employees who have to miss work because they are ill or quarantined. Employers will be compensated immediately through a refundable payroll tax credit, according to Stefanik.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees can be exempted from the requirements by demonstrating it will cause material harm to the business.

Michael Bittel, president of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce, said 82% of the chamber’s members have 20 employees or fewer and 90% have 50 or fewer.

Also being discussed at the federal level is making pandemics something that can be covered by insurance, as terrorism was added after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“We need to understand that we’re in an unprecedented and uncertain time. We are considering all sorts of ideas and proposals to get through this difficult time,” she said. “When we look back after we overcome this crisis, we will have learned a lot to ensure that we have further prepared our country and businesses for the pandemic of the future, which we hope to avoid.”

When asked the fact that taxpayers will be the hook for paying for these aid packages, she said that it is important that the county get back to responsible spending.

“Times like this highlight the need to have more fiscal responsibility as a country to be able to ramp up when economic relief is needed immediately,” she said.

In response to a question about President Donald Trump referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” Stefanik criticized China for spreading misinformation.

“The Chinese Communist Party has tried to blame the U.S. military for this,” she said. “The facts are that China lied to its own people and lied to the world about this virus and now we are facing a global pandemic. We would encourage people and members of the media to push back on the Chinese propaganda that this was not a virus that originated in China.”

If China had been more forthcoming, she said that perhaps this “economic wreckage,” would have not been inflicted on the world.

This crisis shows how important it is for companies to do more manufacturing of medicine and medical supplies in the United States, she said.

Following the conference call, Stefanik said she believes Congress should allow its members to vote remotely.

“I believe that members of Congress should be able to vote during this crisis from their home district in order to stem this pandemic,” she said.

“When you’re voting on the House floor, you’re pretty close together, you’re talking. We want to lead by example and practice social distancing, so (the virus) doesn’t continue to grow,” she said.

Reach Michael Goot at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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