North Coast legislators lauded the efforts to pass a $2 trillion stimulus bill which is expected to go to a vote in the House of Representatives on Friday.
The bill addresses national needs as the United States now leads the world in the total number of COVID-19 infections, with more than 83,000 cases nationwide, according to John Hopkins University.
“I am glad we were able to pull something together this quickly that is mostly focused on workers, small business and families,” U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman told the Times-Standard on Thursday, but he added, “It’s not perfect.”
The $2 trillion package includes a $500 billion fund to assist corporate businesses, $250 billion to provide many individuals and families with $1,200 checks, $250 billion to boost unemployment benefits, and $250 billion in small business loans.
Huffman said payments to Americans were likely to take several weeks, although he added it would be speedier for folks who have an e-signature on file with the Internal Revenue Service. But he was critical of the extent of the benefits, and said they were only available to Americans with a Social Security number, which he said not all legal immigrants necessarily had.
While Huffman admitted he has not yet read all 880 pages of the bill, and is largely “relying on summaries and whatever review my staff has done,” he supports the intent of it. But he insisted, he was more supportive of the House version of the bill that was sent over, calling it “far better.”
The bill will be voted on Friday, although Huffman noted only a quorum would be in the House to approve the bill, with only a few House members still in the nation’s capital. Later, it will go to “unanimous consent,” which allows for a call-in vote.
Huffman added that because the Senate sent the House the bill, there will be no further amendments added.
Huffman said that local small businesses could see some assistance arrive quickly, partially because the last bill approved to address the coronavirus also provided some funding.
But he noted the last bill was not one-size-fits-all legislation
“You also have employers in Humboldt who are too big to qualify for (Small Business Administration assistance),” Huffman said. “A good example would be Sun Valley Farms in Arcata. That’s where this bill kicks in. It is not limited just to businesses that qualify for SBA.”
North Coast state Assemblyman Jim Wood said the bill was good for individuals and small businesses.
He in particular called attention to the boost in unemployment benefits, which more than 3 million Americans have filed for since the outbreak began in the United States.
“People receiving unemployment benefits will get an extra $600 per week, over and above our state’s amount, for up to four months and for the first time, it covers gig workers and temporarily expands unemployment insurance to people who are self-employed as well as those who would like to work but can’t because they’re sick or caring for a family member,” said Wood in a statement. “We have many people who are self-employed in the district I represent, and this will really help.”
But he added that more work remains to be done to address all the needs of the North Coast communities he represents.
“I know this isn’t everything that’s needed, and we’re already talking about what more can be done, but this is a significant step in helping people recover their lives and providing significant support to our hospitals, our health care providers and the businesses in our North Coast communities,” said Wood.
North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire did not respond to a request for comment by the publishing deadline.
Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.