March 25, 2020
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) made the following statement after voting in favor of the CARES Act, the comprehensive coronavirus relief package. Previous efforts to advance the legislation failed on Sunday and Monday because Senate Democrats opposed the measure. This legislation also fixes the major paid-leave mandate imposed on small businesses that Sen. Inhofe highlighted last week.
“To all Oklahomans—our families, our students, our small businesses and health care providers—help is on the way. We just passed a comprehensive relief package that will provide essential resources as we continue to do our part in combatting the coronavirus. I’m proud to vote for this bill because it helps Oklahoma families make ends meet, resources our health care system and provides critical support to the small businesses that fuel our economy. I urge the House to pass this as quickly as possible so President Trump can sign it into law.
“We are facing the greatest public health crisis we’ve seen in 100 years. The CARES Act provides massive funding for our health care system and local communities to make sure our doctors, nurses, public health workers and rural hospitals have what they need to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Care will be provided for everyone who needs it—no one needs to worry. It provides billions for the development and eventual purchase of vaccines, test kits and other preparedness efforts, while cutting red tape and empowering the private sector to help us create the tools we need.
“For families struggling with economic uncertainty—we’re providing immediate relief. Oklahomans know how to weather a storm, but our legislation makes sure you are equipped to do so. It gives the average Oklahoma family of four $3,400 to help with immediate needs like rent, groceries and utilities. This legislation increases the maximum amount of unemployment benefits and extends coverage up to 39 weeks. Student loan interest and payments are halted until we get through the crisis.
“Finally, we give our small businesses the responsible relief they desperately need during this uncertain time by focusing on the heartbeat of every small business: the employees. I’m proud we were able to address the major problem from the bill that passed last week that imposed a mandate on small businesses. That legislation did not provide them with immediate cash to both pay for the mandate and keep their doors open. This legislation does: small businesses will be able to get rapid access to credit to keep things afloat – and up to eight weeks of payroll and other operating expenses will be completely forgiven. So for all the restaurants and retail stores struggling because of necessary closures, this legislation is designed specifically to help you. By keeping people employed, it will prepare our strong economy to come roaring back once we get through the crisis.”
The CARES Act helps Oklahoma’s health care system:
· Provides $100 billion in assistance to hospitals, rural health clinics and other providers to ensure comprehensive care is provided to those suffering from the coronavirus. A substantial portion of the funding will be available for providers to add beds, emergency facilities, ventilators and other critical capacities to meet potential requirements.
· Everyone will receive care—even the underinsured or the uninsured.
· Provides $31 billion for vaccines, test kits and other preparedness efforts. This funding will ensure all testing is provided free of charge to patients. It also streamlines the regulatory process and promotes private sector investment so potential vaccines can be quickly and safely tested—not bogged down in red tape.
· Provides $20 billion for our veteran health care system to care for our nation’s heroes.
· Provides $45 billion for state and local governments to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus.
· Provides $1 billion for Indian Health Service.
The CARES Act helps the people of Oklahoma:
· Provides $3,400 in cash for the average family of four in Oklahoma to make sure everyone can make ends meet during this difficult time, whether it’s rent, a mortgage, utilities or groceries. Specific amounts include $1,200 for an individual, $2,400 for a couple and $500 for each dependent child.
· Six month deferment of all student loan interest and payments. Additionally, individuals whose student loan payments are made by their employers will not pay taxes on the payments for the remainder of the year.
· Provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits for those who lose their jobs during this crisis.
· Provides a tax credit to incentivize businesses of all sizes to retain employees, even when facing a decline in revenue because of the crisis.
The CARES Act helps Oklahoma’s small businesses:
· Provides $350 billion in loans to small businesses to keep doors open and employees paid. This immediately addresses the major problem with the paid-leave mandate imposed on small businesses last week. By providing loans – with terms that forgive eight weeks of operating expenses including payroll and sick leave—companies will be able to maintain employees without concern for cash crunch the mandate created. These loans:
i. Are available to any company with under 500 employees,
ii. Can be made for up to $10 million,
iii. Are reduced by an amount equal to 8 weeks of operating expenses (salaries, paid sick leave, rent, utilities),
iv. Have payments deferred for the first year.
· Provides grants up to $10,000 for small businesses.
· Defers payments of existing small business loans for six months.
· Provides $23.5 billion for agriculture industry.
The CARES Act also provides support to struggling state and local governments and industries critical to the nation:
· Oklahoma will receive more than $1.25 billion of the $150 billion designated for state and local governments for coronavirus response.
· $29 billion in loans is provided to the airline industry. Additional funds are being made available to ensure aviation jobs, like those at American Airlines Tulsa maintenance facility, are maintained.
· Additional funds are made available to the Secretary of Treasury to provide liquidity to industries particularly hard hit by the coronavirus. All support would include the following good government safeguards: prohibits stock buybacks and dividend payments for a period of time, requirements for companies to keep employees on payroll, freezes executive compensation, creates a Special Inspector General for improved oversight and requires immediate reporting to Congress about who is receiving the loans.