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Abby Finkenauer talks Phase 3 bill, COVID-19 prep

Abby Finkenauer talks Phase 3 bill, COVID-19 prep

From the Coronavirus update Northeast Iowa series

As Congress pondered whether and how to do business remotely among two House of Representatives members falling ill from coronavirus, U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer was back in Iowa and said she remained “hopeful” that the Phase 3 stimulus package could surmount political differences and pass quickly out of the Senate to get cash in the hands of Iowans soon as the pandemic wore on.

The $1.8 trillion proposal includes $300 billion in direct cash to Americans, $350 billion in small business loans and $500 billion in largely loan guarantees to businesses. It would also increase unemployment insurance to cover those who are self-employed and expand unemployment payments on the whole.

But Democrats worry the loan guarantees will be used as stock buybacks, as well as that there’s no money for SNAP and other social programs.

Though she’s in the House, Finkenauer said she agreed with Senate Democrats’ reservations.

“We need to make sure there are protections in there, that these dollars aren’t just going to bonuses and CEOs — they’re getting to families who need them and enough to keep our businesses going,” Finkenauer said in an interview with The Courier. “I remain hopeful that we’re going to get there.”

Her Iowa colleagues in the U.S. Senate, both Republicans, remain frustrated at what they say is Democratic stonewalling.

“What we’ve seen over the past several days is a very sad attempt by folks across the aisle to stall and exploit this crisis as an opportunity to jam through their political wish list,” U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst said Tuesday.

Finkenauer said she’s had conversations with Ernst, as well as U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, and said the Phase 3 plan’s problem was that it wasn’t worked out through both the House and the Senate.

“At the end of the day, I guess I would continue to urge the Senate to be willing to work bicamerally,” Finkenauer said. “And we need to take this seriously. This is not the time to play political games.”

For her constituents back home needing help with any issue arising from the federal government’s work, including on coronavirus, Finkenauer pointed people to her website on that topic, https://finkenauer.house.gov/coronavirus-information, and said they could call or email her office as well.

She said the state of Iowa should order residents to stay at home, and wanted President Donald Trump to use the Defense Production Act to compel businesses to manufacture needed supplies.

“I understand this is a very scary, unprecedented time for our country, for Iowa,” she said. “I think what we need to be doing in Iowa in particular is being as cautious as possible.”

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