COVID-19 relief available for South Dakota families and businesses

Courtesy photo

COVID-19 is impacting every American. Schools have closed, public events are canceled and many businesses are asking employees to work from home for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, medical providers have been working around the clock, sometimes with limited resources and equipment, to help patients during their time of need. We are so grateful to them, and to all essential service employees who continue to go into work during these uncertain times to help their communities. 

I’ve just returned home to South Dakota after working in Washington over the past few weeks to pass emergency relief legislation that focuses on saving lives, providing immediate relief to families and businesses, and stabilizing our economy. Nobody wants to see families struggle to pay bills, businesses close up shop and workers lose jobs due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The bill that was passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by President Trump seeks to stop this by providing $2400 for a family making up to $150,000 a year and $500 per child to help them get through this tough time. It also includes provisions to help businesses so they can continue operating, and provides additional resources for hospitals so they can continue to put patients first. 

It is not a perfect bill, but it gets resources to state and local governments, who know the needs of their communities better than anyone else. It also removes regulatory barriers so businesses can get people the help they need during this time of crisis. 

I fully understand the seriousness of initiating legislation of this magnitude. Voting on emergency legislation of this size is not something I take lightly. However, if we fail to act and respond appropriately, the cost to our citizens and our economy as a whole would be devastating. The federal government has a responsibility to act in emergency situations such as this to protect lives and safeguard our country from undue harm. This legislation is not a stimulus bill—it’s emergency relief for families and businesses to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The bill that we passed provides loans for businesses both large and small so they can continue to pay employees even if they aren’t able to operate. Eight weeks of payroll, utilities, rent and certain other business expenses may be forgivable if businesses keep their staff employed. The bill included funding for hospitals to acquire the equipment necessary to deal with increasing numbers of patients. Our legislation also provides funds directly to states, local units of government and tribes since they know best what their communities need. 

Our bill includes bipartisan legislation I introduced with Sen. Doug Jones to establish a Ready Reserve Corps within the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps. This means that when USPHS Commissioned Corps Officers are relocated to help during public health emergencies, Ready Reserve Corps Officers are available to fill any vacant positions within federal agencies like the Indian Health Service or the Bureau of Prisons. I also worked to make sure the Senate recovery legislation includes provisions to help cattle producers, who have been unfairly hurt in recent years despite a growing demand for U.S. beef and who are now facing further loss due to the spread of COVID-19. We’re glad our bill included $9.5 billion for direct support to producers, specifically including cattle producers, to offset losses attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Importantly, our relief legislation does not include all of the far-left proposals that some Democrats wanted to sneak in, like nationalizing state-run elections, mandating all airlines offset carbon emissions and protecting collective bargaining for federal employees. Legislation aimed at helping Americans during an historic crisis is no place to insert their political wish list. 

In the history of our nation, we’ve never faced a challenge we weren’t able to overcome. The COVID-19 crisis is no different. No one is immune to the disease or its impact on our everyday lives. We’re in this together, and we’ll get through this together.

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