As U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst spoke with Iowa reporters Wednesday morning, debate on the Senate floor was just beginning as lawmakers quickly work to pass an economic stabilization package aimed at assisting American workers and businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support last week and today is moving through the GOP-controlled Senate.
H.R. 6201 marks the second piece of legislation moved through Congress in response to COVID-19 and its rapid spread across the country. On March 6, an $8.3 billion emergency relief package was signed into law by President Donald Trump.
As Ernst told reporters today, Congress still needs to craft legislation with the potential to directly aid the pocketbooks of individual Americans, large corporations and small business owners.
“The phase three package, which will focus more on some of those small business loans — we will not leave Washington, D.C., until we have phase three done,” Ernst said. “We hope that will be done by the end of this week. We will take that up immediately. We are talking through a number of provisions there, and that would focus on about $300 billion, is the initial proposal from the administration, of small business loans.”
Another component of “phase three” legislation also could include some level of direct payments to Americans as businesses begin to lay-off workers due to facility closures and public gathering restrictions.
Ernst, who recently said she does not support federally mandated paid sick leave, declined to state her position on direct payments.
“What we do know is that we need to find the most effective and efficient way to delivering immediate relief to our families in Iowa,” Ernst said. “It is something that I will consider. I can’t say whether I will support that right now, but it is part of our discussion for phase three.”
Late Sunday afternoon, Gov. Kim Reynolds recommended schools in Iowa close. On Tuesday morning, she issued a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency, banning restaurants and bars from serving dine-in customers and ordering fitness centers, casinos, theaters and senior citizen centers closed to the public.
Per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the emergency declaration also prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Iowa has confirmed 29 positive coronavirus cases spanning Johnson, Dallas, Allamakee, Adair, Black Hawk, Carroll, Harrison, Polk and Pottawattamie counties.
Ernst said she intends to continue traveling between Iowa and Washington, D.C., until senators are advised otherwise.
“The intent is that, yes, I will continue to travel back and forth between Iowa and Washington, D.C.,” Ernst said. “Should there be recommendations that are pushed out from CDC, we will take a look at that. I am doing my absolute best to maintain that spacing — wash my hands, of course — and following the protocols that have been set forward from CDC. I still feel that it’s important to hear from Iowans, maintain a presence in the state, lead from the front.”
By Elizabeth Meyer