By Rep. Ben Cline
While I am home in the Sixth District and not in Washington, D.C., know that I am always working on behalf of you. This week, House and Senate Leadership, along with the Administration, discussed an additional COVID-19 relief bill. As potential legislation develops, I will continue to monitor these ongoing negotiations. Further, to help fight red-tape and burdensome regulations, I introduced bipartisan legislation on Friday aimed at saving taxpayers potentially billions of dollars. There was also some excitement here in the District between the naming of a new Superintendent of Shenandoah National Park and the opening of a new emergency call center in Roanoke. And until the time that I am called back to Washington to further address the coronavirus, I look forward to spending time traveling our beautiful district and seeing the folks who I am privileged to represent.
In the midst of House and Senate Leadership negotiations regarding an additional COVID-19 relief bill, the President took Executive Action this week to help those in need. In his order, the President provided $400 per-week supplemental unemployment payments to out of work Americans, extended student loan relief, and afforded protections to those facing evictions. The order also directed the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payment of the employee portion of certain payroll taxes through the end of 2020. This action follows the recently introduced Health, Economic Assistance Liability Protection & Schools Act, or HEALS Act in the Senate.
Among its provisions, this legislation seeks to address several underlying issues still affecting our nation during the coronavirus pandemic. As millions of Americans continue to face financial hardship, this legislation would provide a second round of direct Emergency Impact Payments to individuals to help them through these difficult times. Further, the bill continues enhanced unemployment benefits established under the CARES Act, but lowers the rate slightly to help encourage folks whose places of business are reopening to go back to work, which will ensure the long-term viability of our economy and the financial stability of American families. The HEALS Act also provides $105 billion in education funding to ensure our schools can open safely in the fall. Additionally, the bill extends the Paycheck Protection Program, which has allocated nearly $612 million to businesses right here in Virginia’s Sixth District and is currently supporting 70,000 jobs in our area. And finally, it affords liability protections to businesses, hospitals, and schools, which is vital as our country continues its phased reopening process. While House and Senate Leadership and the Administration continue negations on a final package, I am hopeful that bipartisanship will prevail and that a targeted relief bill is voted upon soon on the Floor. With that said, before passing another piece of coronavirus-related legislation, we must be mindful that there is still at least $500 billion that has not yet been spent from previous relief bills.
SMART Government Act:
The size and scope of the federal bureaucracy often leads to waste at the expense of the American taxpayer. That is why my colleague, Congressman Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), and I have teamed up to introduce a series of reform bills over the course of the next few weeks. This week, we introduced the bipartisan SMART Government Act aimed at promoting efficient technology use by federal agencies. This legislation would implement a three-pronged approach to establish better governance and oversight regarding federal technology practices. First, the bill would work to consolidate the more than 12,000 government data centers to not only save federal dollars but to promote transparency within these facilities. Additionally, it would require federal agencies to properly track and report their software assets to eliminate unnecessary redundancies in purchasing. And finally, this legislation would mandate that documents transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration are done so electronically to ensure the government is better equipped to access its data and respond to individual requests in a timely manner. The federal government invests more than $90 billion annually in information technology, and these measures are needed because, at this time, the Federal bureaucracy lacks the necessary oversight measures to protect against waste.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.