On the day President Trump announced that he was suspending negotiations with Democratic leaders on the next federal relief package until after the November 3rd election, Congressman Dan Meuser stated that he believed a deal would get done. He believes that reopening the Paycheck Protection Program and providing limited liability protection for businesses should be part of that package. Meuser provided his thoughts to Chamber members during a virtual program held October 6th.
In late September, Meuser signed a discharge petition to urge the House to consider legislation that would have reopened the Paycheck Protection Program to allow businesses to apply for $138 billion in unspent funds. He noted that Pennsylvania businesses have received more than $20 billion in assistance through the program, with the average loan of $110,000. That petition did not receive sufficient support and the program remains closed. While there are no House session days scheduled for the remainder of the year, legislators are on a 24 hour callback notice to consider specific legislation or the larger relief package.
Other components that should be in the next relief package according to Meuser include bonus unemployment compensation, though at a level significantly below the previous $600 amount, and additional financial assistance for schools and hospitals.
Meuser defended the President’s decision to leave business operation orders up to each governor, noting significantly different situations across the country. Admitting that mistakes were made at all levels of government in responding to the pandemic, he believes that following CDC guidance would have provided a better level of clarity and continuity for businesses. While shutting down some businesses for a brief period was appropriate in the Spring, Meuser also believes Pennsylvania should be less restrictive on business operations now.
America needs to improve its business climate to be better prepared to deal with future crises, according to Meuser. PPE, pharmaceuticals, and other supplies were initially a challenge to acquire as the U.S. replies on other counties, including China, for supply chains. While the federal government could do more to stockpile supplies from American companies, the Congressman believes that lower business tax rates would help incentivize domestic manufacturing, resulting in better access to products.
When asked about the biggest challenges for the 9th Congressional District, Meuser reiterated the need for economic recovery, revitalization programs for a number of communities, including the coal region, and substance abuse issues. He talked about the need to slow the influx of illegal drugs from South America, and projected that deaths from overdoses may hit an all-time high this year. In supporting people dealing with substance abuse, he recently co-sponsored the Family Support Services for Addiction Act, which would create a $25 million grant program over five years to help non-profit organizations provide services for families impacted by addiction. That legislation passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.
Meuser is finishing his first, 2-year term representing Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District.