Senate to focus on families, economy in next COVID-19 bill

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When the Senate goes back into session the week of July 20, one of the proposals we’ll be working on is a “phase four” coronavirus relief package. The last coronavirus relief bill we passed back in March—the CARES Act—included funding for the Paycheck Protection Program which helped many businesses in South Dakota stay open during the pandemic. It also included direct funding for families and individuals which was intended to help keep our economy going. It’s never easy to vote for such a big piece of legislation—with a big price tag—but the coronavirus pandemic has been unlike anything we’ve faced before. It required us to take significant action to save lives and prevent the economy—which we greatly improved over the past few years—from crashing.  

Any phase four bill is still being hashed out, so at this point in time we do not know for sure what it will include. In the discussions I’m having with other Republican senators, we’re talking about keeping the focus on job creation and the economy. 7.5 million jobs were re-added back into the economy over the past two months, which is good news, but we’re still short of the record-high employment numbers we experienced before the pandemic started. We have a lot of work left to do to get back to pre-pandemic unemployment levels. As more states begin reopening safely, we’ll see more jobs being created.

Reopening schools in the fall so our kids can get back in the classroom will likely also be a priority in a phase four relief bill. If it can be done safely, reopening schools will be a big help to moms and dads who have been working from home while at the same time trying to teach their kids.

We’re also talking about including liability protection for businesses, medical professionals, schools and universities to protect from lawsuits related to COVID-19. We don’t want to see thousands of new lawsuits against business owners, school districts and universities because someone contracted COVID-19. We also don’t want the doctors and nurses on the frontlines of this battle to be sued as they work overtime to help those who have been infected.

I can tell you what won’t be included in the Senate’s phase four bill: national Democrats’ proposals in the House-passed HEROES Act, such as requiring taxpayers to fund abortions, incentivizing illegal immigration, promotion of cannabis and federalizing our elections. The $3 trillion HEROES Act pushed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her members in the House was a socialist pipe dream. Because the bill was so large, she and her members were able to include many extremely liberal policies that are unpopular with the majority of Americans. The HEROES Act was not real relief for those struggling because of COVID-19.

Americans deserve a lot better than what the House is putting forward. We’re working in the Senate to come up with actual relief for American families and businesses who are struggling to deal with this virus. As we begin talking about phase four, I welcome the input of South Dakotans. My contact information is on my website, www.rounds.senate.gov. Email me, call me or stop in to visit.

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