Blue Dogs Secure Stronger Spending Oversight Measures, Several Other Policies in Bipartisan CARES Act
WASHINGTON—Today, the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition announced that several of the Coalition’s policy recommendations were included in the final text of the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), the Blue Dog Coalition’s Co-Chair for Administration, issued the following statement on the bipartisan legislation:
“For 25 years, the Blue Dogs have bridged the gap between Democrats and Republicans to get things done for the American people. We thank House Democratic Leadership for working with their Senate counterparts to include Blue Dog-proposed policies to improve the Senate legislation from its original form. These policies will ensure independent oversight of our taxpayer dollars, deliver relief to small businesses, incentivize businesses of all sizes to keep employees on their payroll, give payments directly to American working-class families, increase access to health care and broadband internet in rural communities, and provide more resources available under the Defense Production Act. This bipartisan legislation is not perfect legislation for either side, but it delivers critical results. There is no question that more needs to be done, and the Blue Dogs will continue to work with leadership to find bipartisan solutions that we can continue to implement as soon as possible.”
The final text of the CARES Act includes the following policies that were based on the Blue Dog Coalition’s task force policy recommendations:
- Strengthens Spending Oversight Measures: The legislation creates a Treasury Department Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery to provide oversight of Treasury loans and investments. It creates a Pandemic Response Accountability Committee through the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency to enhance government-wide protection for taxpayer dollars. The bill also establishes a Congressional Oversight Commission to enhance legislative oversight of pandemic response. The Commission would have subpoena power.
- Establishes an Employee Retention Tax Credit: The legislation establishes a refundable Employee Retention Tax Credit, to be taken against federal payroll taxes, for struggling businesses that retain and pay their workers, rather than lay them off. The amount of the credit is equal to 50 percent of an employee’s qualified wages, up to a $10,000 per employee cap. This measure was spearheaded by Rep. Murphy.
- Delivers Relief to Small Businesses: The bill appropriates $350 billion in loan forgiveness grants to small businesses and non-profits to maintain existing workforce and help pay for other expenses like rent, mortgage, and utilities. It provides $10 billion in funding for SBA emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for small business operating costs. The legislation also delivers $17 billion for SBA to cover 6 months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.
- Gives Direct Payments to Working-Class Americans: The legislation delivers $1,200 cash payments to working-class Americans, and an additional $500 cash payment is available per child. The full payment is available for individuals making up to $75,000 (individual) and $150,000 (married). The value begins decreasing and then phases out completely for those making over the full payment income cap.
- Increases Access to Broadband and Health Care Services in Rural America: The bill provides $100 million for the construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment that are necessary to provide broadband services in rural communities. It allows physicians and practitioners in rural health clinics (RHCs) and federally qualified community health centers (FQHCs) to provide distant site telehealth visits to their patients under Medicare. The legislation also increase access to critical mental health services by appropriating $250 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics.
- Enhances Resources Available Under the Defense Production Act: The legislation provides $1 billion for the Defense Production Act to bolster domestic supply chains, enabling industry to quickly ramp up production of personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other urgently needed medical supplies, and billions dollars more for federal, state, and local health agencies to purchase such equipment.
On March 23, Blue Dog Coalition released its policy recommendations for both Congress and the Trump Administration to consider as they continue to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The recommendations were developed within the policy parameters of the Blue Dog Coalition’s five policy task forces: 1) Task Force on Economic Growth, 2) Task Force on Fiscal Responsibility and Government Reform, 3) Task Force on Infrastructure and Job Creation, 4) Task Force on National Security, and 5) Task Force on Rural Opportunity.
On March 22, the Co-Chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition—Reps. Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Lou Correa (CA-46), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), and Anthony Brindisi (NY-22)—published an essay on Medium calling for a balanced economic rescue package that focuses on the middle class. Specifically, the Co-Chairs called on Congress to produce an economic rescue package that ensures large corporations will not misuse taxpayer dollars, while also giving businesses the necessary resources to survive, because the fate of employees and the future of United States economy depend on it.