WASHINGTON, D.C.–Representative Antonio Delgado (D-19th) chaired a telephone Town Hall meeting last week with constituents from across the 11-county district he represents. The in-person meetings he’s frequently held over the last two years are not possible during the COVID-19 emergency, but half a dozen constituents got the chance to question Mr. Delgado by phone, many of them concerned about government aid to small business.
Links and guidance on specific information about applying for assistance are available at the congressman’s website, https://delgado.house.gov/
Rep. Delgado said during the phone meeting Friday, March 27 there are now three major aid bills passed by Congress and approved by the president, the latest one being the $2 trillion CARES Act signed into law not long before last Friday’s call. In his opening remarks and in answer to questions later, Mr. Delgado said that hourly and salaried workers and independent contractors would all be eligible for unemployment assistance.
An earlier law funds work on vaccines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and low interest loans to businesses through the federal Small Business Administration. A second law allows for free COVID-19 testing.
All the measures were adopted with strong bipartisan support.
The CARES Act, which the congressman described as “the biggest stimulus In the country’s history,” will fund direct payments of $1,200 to U.S. taxpayers earning earning less than $75,000 a year or couples earning less than $150,000. There are also payments of $500 for children under 17. And unemployment benefits for all categories of workers of $600 a week.
There are 27,000 small businesses in the 19th District, which includes all of Columbia County.
The congressman also said the law includes provisions he worked on to help small and medium-size farms in this and other districts around the country.
Callers, who gave only their first names, included:
• Joan in Dutchess County asked why the president had not invoked the Defense Production Act, which would allow Mr. Trump to compel private companies to produce essential products like medical ventilators. Rep. Delgado said that the act has now been invoked and that General Motors would manufacture the machines, which are critical in treatment of the most serious cases of COVID-19
• Joe from the western side of the district, said he had a small corporation that provided music for weddings and asked whether he would qualify for a loan or other aid. “The short answer is ‘Yes,’” Mr. Delgado said
• Carol has a business with “three to four” workers who had to be laid off because of the emergency. Could they be rehired? The congressman said she could rehire the workers with “no-fee loans during the crisis. He urged her to contact his Kingston office at 845-443-2930 for assistance
• Several experts were invited to join the call and Michelle Catan, an advanced certified business advisor with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Oneonta offered to help with the loan process. She advised callers and the public to go to the center’s website nysbdc.org . The center is a partnership between U.S. Small Business Administration, the State University of New York (SUNY), the City University of New York (CUNY), private universities and the private sector.
• When a caller asked why emergency and medical workers did not have adequate supplies of personal protection equipment (PPE) including masks and gowns, Mr. Delgado attributed the problem to a “lack of urgency on the part of the administration.”
• Asked about ending the lockdown of schools and businesses in mid-April, as the president had suggested, Mr. Delgado called it a “dangerous proposition” and added, “We can’t have a healthy economy if we have a sick workforce.”
President Trump said Sunday, March 29 that the national lockdown would be extended until the end of April.
Other topics discussed by the congressman on the phone call included the lack of broadband internet access necessary for tele-medicine connection between patients and caregivers, and the assistance that the Healthcare Consortium can provide to people enrolling in health insurance programs or finding other health services.
Also invited on the call at the congressman’s invitation was Assemblyman Jake Ashby (R-107th). He said he and his wife have volunteered to help with medical teams working on the COVID-19 response.
This was the second of these calls and Rep. Delgado said he hoped to make another one this week. He ended the call saying, “We will be stronger at the end of all this.”