By Brian Porter
The aid of a $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress, known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act, is beginning to be realized locally, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said Tuesday afternoon during a call with Eastern Colorado media outlets.
“We are starting to see these policies be implemented,” he said, explaining funding intended to assist rural hospitals, small businesses and agriculture have begun to be released by assigned agencies of the federal government.
Gardner’s call immediately followed a call he had with Northeast Colorado’s chambers of commerce and other business leaders and was followed by his tele-town hall.
A letter joined by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Gardner in the Senate and four Colorado members of the U.S. House, including U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Greeley, asked the Small Business Administration to ensure Critical Access Hospitals and Rural Health Clinics owned or operated by counties or districts be eligible for the SBA loan assistance programs provided by the CARES Act. Bennet and Gardner have consistently held concern for rural hospitals during the COVID-19 crisis.
“[Rural hospitals] are very concerned about their cash issues because they don’t have elective procedures being offered,” Gardner said. “We need to be sure relief is coming to these rural hospitals. It needs to come for every community, not just the big cities.”
Gardner has further supported spending of personal Health Savings Account funds being allowed for home health care checks during the COVID-19 crisis.
In Tuesday’s call, Gardner supported increased testing as a means to gather intel to “make better public policy decisions” as a result of the testing.
“Those tests need to be made available at your doctor’s office,” Gardner said.
In the call with Northeast Colorado’s chambers of commerce, Gardner committed to supporting additional loan funding support for small business, he said.
“We walked through programs available,” he said. “A lot of the questions focused on the Paycheck Protection Program and where to find participating banks able to lend through the program. We discussed the type of businesses which are eligible.”
Gardner added the intent of Congress was to “get the aid out the door immediately” and that “it has been so popular Congress will be working to approve additional support.”
Relief for farmers to ensure the continuity of the world’s food supply was also a topic of a joint letter by Bennet and Gardner to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The pandemic is driving declines in market conditions, prices and export demand, the letter reads, and “some experts believe that the consequences of the pandemic could hit rural communities particularly hard.”
The letter calls for deadline extensions, loan payment deferrals, payment forbearance, and a full suspension of all current and pending foreclosure actions effective for the duration of the pandemic and subsequent economic recovery.
“We entered into this with low farm economy prices as it was,” Gardner said. “We had some agreements with China to purchase goods. It’s been a double, triple, quadruple whammy.”
Gardner is calling for additional support of agriculture, making note of such products as lamb.
“Fifty percent of lamb consumption occurs in restaurants,” he said, calling for support recognizing seasonal issues in agriculture and opening new markets for trade.
Gardner has also noted the strain on the oil industry. West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery rose 70 cents Wednesday to $24.33 a barrel following decline in U.S. production. Despite the decline in production, U.S. crude supplies have risen in 11 straight weeks as the effect of stay-at-home orders has decreased demand. West Texas Intermediate crude pricing remains at a 20-year low.
Colorado ranks fifth nationally in oil production, but the present price per barrel is making it unprofitable to drill, Jack Strauss, the Miller Chair of Applied Economics at the University of Denver’s Daniels School of Business, told the Denver Post.Read the Article Here