Hartzler: Relief plans should be based on need

Hartzler: Relief plans should be based on need
U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, third from left, takes part in a lunch meeting Monday with the Moberly Area Economic Development Corporation at The Brick restaurant in Moberly. She was at the meeting to discuss pending COVID-19 pandemic-related legislation Charles Dunlap/The Mexico Ledger
Charles Dunlap

The U.S. needs to finish spending money from the first coronavirus relief bill before Congress should consider another stimulus package, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler said Monday before a lunch meeting with the Moberly Area Economic Development Corporation.

“We need to assess the needs that are still out there,” the Harrisonville Republican said. “If we pass something it should be targeted to just meeting those needs.”

Relief bills already passed have appropriated $3 trillion dollars, with $1 trillion still to be spent, Hartzler said.

“So there is a lot of money still going out to hospitals and businesses and I would like to see what that impact is before we go into debt further as a nation,” she said.

Hartzler represents the 4th Congressional District, which covers all or part of 24 counties from the Kansas border to central Missouri. Voters in the central Missouri counties of Audrain, Boone, Cooper, Howard and Randolph counties are included in the district.

A plan already was passed by the U.S. House, which included additional stimulus checks for individuals, Hartzler’s Democratic challenger, Lindsey Simmons of Hallsville, said.

The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES Act, had a roll call vote May 15 and it also included an extension of pandemic unemployment supplements that expired July 25.

Hartzler voted against the $3 trillion spending bill. Simmons has said she would have voted for the bill and said Congress needs to pass something like it and provide money to support the U.S. Postal Service.

“I think it is really important that we fully fund our post office,” she said. “It is important for rural communities, especially our veterans who receive over 97 percent of their prescriptions by mail.”

President Donald Trump in July dropped a bid to cut payroll taxes after a $1 trillion Republican relief package was unveiled. Hartzler does not support a payroll tax cut or suspension because that money eventually has to be paid back in some form, she said.

“We should look at all options at this point, though, and ways we can help individuals who are still hurting,” she said.

The trust fund that pays out Social Security payments could be depleted by the middle of 2023 if there were payroll tax cuts, according to a letter from the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration.

“Social Security and Medicare already are financially strapped and we need to shore them up,” Hartzler said. “Delaying payment of that could have some ramifications down the road. Do you have to pay those [taxes] back both as a business and an individual, or does the government have to back-fill that payment. Either way, we need to be shoring up Social Security and Medicare.”

Simmons also is against cutting or suspending payroll taxes.

“It would destabilize Medicare,” she said.

Elements that should be in a relief bill, Simmons said, include health care coverage expansion, housing support, and aid to local governments. She also wants more small business loans for Mom-and-Pop-type operations, independent contractors and smaller-scale farmers and ranchers.

Trump, in an executive order in August, established the Lost Wages Assistance Program. This program provides $300 per week, down from the $600 per week from the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Stability, or CARES Act, where that benefit expired July 25. MIssouri is among 34 states, so far, to access the funding benefit. The state could provide an additional $100 per week.

Hartzler is in favor of the U.S. Senate’s unemployment plan, which has the unemployment supplement at $200 per week and includes another $1,200 stimulus payment.

Those items should be in relief legislation, but Hartzler doesn’t see a need for immediate action based on current program spending needs.

“What I am hearing from most employers and some employees in my district is the $600 we had actually was encouraging people to stay at home, than work, because they were making more money at home than work,” Hartzler said. “That is not a good place to be. We need to get our economy going again and encourage and reward people for working.”

Simmons would prefer if the CARES Act unemployment provision was extended.

“We need to make sure we are aligning that funding so that people maintain a relationship with their employer, so those people can continue to have access to their health care coverage, which, for most people, is sponsored through their employer,” she said.

Money still is available for farmers facing hardship through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and that program should continue for commodities that still are struggling, Hartzler said. As for other business types, needs should be assessed first before further relief plans are crafted. One option, if needed, is another round of paycheck protection program payments, she said.

The food assistance program benefited larger agricultural operations based on the time frame in which the United States Department of Agriculture is providing relief, which was early in the year, Simmons said

“Smaller family farmers held onto their produce to kind of survive the storm,” she said. “Because they held onto later, a lot of folks don’t qualify for the program.”

Operations that receive money, such as through the food assistance program or paycheck protection, need to go to those that truly need the money and that members of congress or larger corporations are not receiving front-of-the line payouts, Simmons said.

“There needs to be checks on it so that members of congress don’t cut to the front of the line and multimillion dollar corporations don’t take away money from people who need it,” she said.


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