Combating COVID-19

Drew Butler


On Apr 2, 2020, at 8:53 PM, Short, Robby wrote:

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, hosted a telephone town call Thursday evening addressing the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The call gave updates on the steps the federal government is taking to combat and slow the spread of the virus as well as addressing the relief efforts being offered to the American people.

Cole began by breaking down and categorizing the provisions put into place by the massive emergency relief bill passed last week.

“Last Friday the United States passed probably the most sweeping bill ever passed in the history of the country,” Cole said. “It’s the largest spending bill ever passed — over $2.3 trillion — and the most complex piece of legislation ever passed because it’s meant to deal with this virus on many different fronts.”

He said the first category includes money for health care supplies such as additional masks and ventilators. On top of these funds, an additional $100 billion was set aside for hospitals to help them deal with the extra strain brought on by the disease. The funds will also help compensate for the loss of funds hospitals will receive due to elective and non-essential surgeries being put on pause while they dedicate their resources to combating the virus.

Cole said Congress is currently working on new legislation that would allow anyone hospitalized for complications from COVID-19 to receive their treatment at no cost.

“If you’ve got insurance obviously the insurance will be called upon to do its job,” Cole said. “If you don’t and you need to go to the hospital, the government is trying to make sure there are ways to take care of that without having to bankrupt you or your family.”

Cole said the next section of the bill provides direct help to individual American citizens. Every adult who makes less than $75,000 a year will be receiving $1,200 in a one-time emergency payment. Parents and guardians will receive an additional $500 per child.

Cole said this money should start arriving around April 9 to those adults who normally file a tax return. Those currently on Social Security will likely receive their money a few days later.

Another $350 billion was set aside for small businesses, and Cole stated he believes more funds will be necessary and will likely be forthcoming. He outlined some of the conditions of the Payment Protection Program which will allow businesses to retain employees while they are shutdown because of public health measures. They will not have to repay the loan provided they follow its conditions. He also stated that any small business that has already let staff go can still be eligible if they rehire those employees.

The bill also set aside billions of additional dollars for unemployment funds.

“We’ve had record numbers of unemployment claims,” Cole said. “3.2 million Americans last week, and another 6.6 million announced today. So that’s 10 million Americans out of work in literally two weeks. Every one of those people is immediately available for the unemployment check because we’ve waived the normal delay because they are unemployed through no fault of their own.”

Cole said for the next four months each person on unemployment will receive an additional $600 per week on top of the funds they would otherwise be entitled to. These additional funds are meant to be used to help cover expenses such as rent or mortgage payments.

Cole returned to unemployment later in the call after receiving a question about options available to the self-employed. He said anyone self-employed will likely be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

“In this period you’re eligible for unemployment,” Cole said in answer to the caller’s question. “You’re eligible for the weekly unemployment check in ways that you haven’t been before. If you’re a self-employed person or part of the gig economy, contact the unemployment bureau, and you should be eligible.”

He wrapped up all the categories by stating that another $500 billion was set aside for loans to help major employers and corporations. He noted that airlines in particular are currently struggling. Corporations receiving these loans will be required to pay them back.

He said this bill and others related to the pandemic have all passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Cole closed the call by asking constituents to remain strong.

“Keep your confidence in our country and our institutions,” Cole said. “We’re Americans and we’re awfully good about coming together in a crisis, and certainly Oklahomans are the cream of the crop. We’ve seen that after every tornado, the Oklahoma City bombing, you name it. Oklahomans pull together, they don’t pull apart. Honestly, I think that’s true of our fellow Americans as well. We’ll get through this. I guarantee you. We’ll be successful, and we’ll come back stronger.”