As campaigns enter their final month, Congress member John Katko and challenger Dana Balter are promoting ideas to prepare for a possible second coronavirus wave, and to help businesses suffering from the first one.
The house just passed a Katko-authored bill to require federal agencies do future COVID pandemic planning.
“Develop and submit plans to congress for our nation to respond to a second wave of the COVID-19 crisis. it really is important that we get this set now so that we don’t get caught short like we did last time. I don’t want to sit idly by as the prospect of the second wave threatens our region and even threatens our country."
He notes Syracuse has numerous federal agencies – The US Attorney’s office, The FBI, Social Security, Department of Agriculture and more that would all be safer with plans in place. He’s been watching increases in COVID-19 cases in as many as half the states in the US.
"The uptick in those states could be the signs of the beginning of second wave but it also could be just the fact that there are so many more tests out there and so many more people are being found to have the virus because the test are ubiquitous. It remains to be seen whether there is a big uptick but we’ve got to be ready for it and that’s what this bill mandates.”
While not the purpose of this bill, he agrees it does counter rhetoric from the White House that he termed ‘not helpful’ during the pandemic. Katko’s COVID readiness bill has not passed the Senate yet.
LOCAL RESTAURANTS, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE BALTER PUSH RECOVERY GRANTS
Democrat Dana Balter joined local businesses in calling for the Restaurants Act – $120 billion in aid for eateries, bars and wineries. She met with Oh My Darling Restaurant owner Ryan Benz, who says he needs more help in a business sector that only averages 4% to 5% net profit.
"So when your sales are down 40, 50, 60 or more percent there’s no profit anymore. Fixed expenses continue to accrue so the only way you pay that off is either you liquidate your cash position, or you go in debt, or both," said Benz. "The restaurant act provides a chance to frankly get out of debt, never mind (trying) to continue to grow our business. We're simply focusing on surviving.”
Balter heard the same from Treleaven Wines in the Finger Lakes, who needed something different than PPP loans.
"When you’re dealing with businesses that have already taken on a tremendous amount of debt and part of what they are struggling with is servicing that debt, more debt is not helpful," Balter said. "The other thing that is really important, the notion that this money is not restricted to payroll costs.”
Instead, businesses would be able to get a grant for the difference between 2020 revenues, and what they made last year.
Balter says even though not in office, she was able to work with Congress Member Earl Blumenaur of Oregon to improve the bill.
Balter is challenging Katko in the 24th Congressional district, in a rematch of the 2018 election.