IA-01: Two Finkenauer Bills Pass House This Week Amid COVID Gridlock

At a time when the American public is reading headlines about Congress primarily focused on how politicians have failed to come together on another coronavirus relief package, Iowa Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer passed two bills through the House of Representatives this week focused on pandemic safety for childcare providers and small businesses’ access to international trade markets.

Finkenauer, and fellow Iowa Rep. Cindy Axne, also have sent letters and called on House and Senate leadership asking them to “stop political fighting” and pass a bipartisan coronavirus bill.

“Our leaders need to know that real people are hurting each and every day — facing lost jobs, declining business, and increasing uncertainty about how they’ll pay rent or put food on the table,” Finkenauer said in a statement. “My message to House and Senate leaders is the same today as it was months ago: Put politics aside, come together and help hardworking families who are struggling through no fault of their own.”

Despite the gridlock on comprehensive coronavirus relief, Finkenauer on Wednesday saw her Ensuring Children and Child Care Workers Are Safe Act pass the House with only 33 dissenting votes.

The bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services to provide “educational materials and technical assistance to states” related to COVID-19 prevention in childcare facilities; professional development opportunities on health and safety; how to find and utilize personal protective equipment; and how providers can modify their business to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

“This bill recognizes the unprecedented demands being put on our childcare providers,” Finkenauer said in a speech on the House floor. “We simply cannot expect them to do this alone when they are already up against so much.”

At the start of the week, another Finkenauer bill sailed through the Democratic-controlled chamber with bipartisan support. The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Improvement Act reauthorizes the Small Business Administration’s STEP program through 2024, and makes improvements to it, in order to extend and expand foreign trade assistance to small businesses.

“I know firsthand that for our small businesses the ability to access new markets and export goods promotes economic success at home and in our communities,” Finkenauer said Monday on the House floor. “Given the importance of trade in my home state, especially for our farmers, small businesses and manufacturers, I have made it a priority to improve and strengthen the State Trade Expansion Program.”

Through House committee hearings and roundtable discussions with stakeholders in Iowa, Finkenauer said she worked to craft a bill to keep STEP funded while also working out some administrative kinks that Iowans have flagged as hindering to their participation in the program.

“This bill would reauthorize the State Trade Expansion Program for four more years and make improvements,” Finkenauer said, “like creating a standard timeframe for applications, opening up more channels for input and communication between the Small Business Administration and the states, and then also collecting better data on how the program helps small businesses, which is the ultimate goal here.”


By Elizabeth Meyer
Posted 9/18/20

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