SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, wants to see the extra $600 a week in pandemic unemployment benefits cut back, but he acknowledges the White House could send out to citizens a second coronavirus check by siding with Democrats and snagging a few Republicans.
Romney joined Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega to talk about a possible extension of the $600 a week in unemployment benefits. Jobless Americans have been receiving the added help during the pandemic. But at issue for Romney is whether the extra money should continue past the end of July deadline, as Congress works on an additional economic stimulus for the nation’s citizens and businesses.
Romney on unemployment
“You’re on the side of extending benefits, some sort of stimulus. So I want to talk about unemployment insurance. I remember that 600 bucks when it first got announced. Holy cow! I don’t know what kind of rents they’re paying, where 600 bucks a week is the right amount. But give us an idea what that looks like,” Dave said.
“You’re right. I think the $600 number was a gift to the Democrats. They insisted on that. Obviously, it’s an effort to raise the minimum wage at the same time. We will probably get there, but the $600 extension is not going to happen, in my opinion. My hope is you’ll see unemployment insurance extended beyond the end of this month,” Romney said. “But unemployment benefits will not be an additional $600, but maybe, $200, $300 more than a typical payment of $350. So people will see a total of something like a total of $650 or $750 a week. But not the $950 a week that folks have been seeing through July.”
More stimulus checks?
“Senator Romney, how quickly will that happen because I know a lot of Utah families that are relying on this?” Debbie asked. “We can debate all day long whether the $600 was too much or too little, but they’re still relying on an additional amount of money. So how quickly will Congress get this passed?”
Romney said he expects the stimulus legislation will be completed at the end of July or first week of August.
Dave asked if the legislation is set to include another stimulus check for every adult US citizen with an additional amount for every child.
“I think most of the Republicans in the Senate and in the House are not enthusiastic about another check of that nature. But I did see that the White House is encouraging us to do that. We will see what the Democrats want to do,” Romney said. “Obviously, if the White House and Democrats get together and they agree amongst themselves, the president will be able to pick off a few Republicans to go along with that and perhaps get a so-called stimulus check to individuals and families. We’ll see where that goes. That’s kinda up in air right now.”
Debbie pointed out that a lot of listeners have complained that the Payroll Protection Program went to large businesses that didn’t need the help.
“So should we extend PPP?” she asked.
Romney said PPP was designed to get money out as fast as possible to allow companies to maintain their payrolls during the coronavirus crisis. The senator said he believes the program will be extended, but limited to companies that have seen a 25% to 50% decline in sales year over year.
He said he has heard of businesses that have seen an increase in revenue during the pandemic and received money from PPP.
“That is simply not right, and I hope the Treasury [Department] audits some of those firms, and holds people’s feet to the fire,” Romney said.
“Are we just throwing in the towel with the national debt? We’ve heard of trillions upon trillions of dollars just this year,” Dave said.
Romney said the interest in reining in the national debt has waned among Democrats, Republicans and the White House.
“I am one of the few voices that really cares about that issue,” he said. “. . . But we shouldn’t be borrowing money when you come out of the crisis. And we should not have been borrowing over the last few years when the economy was strong.”
Debbie pointed out that the senator was concerned about the lag time between testing for COVID-19 and receiving the results, which can take between five and seven days.
“What’s going on? Do you have any insight on that?” Debbie asked.
“If people have to wait several days to get the results of their tests, during that time they may be infecting family members. And family members may be unknowingly infecting others,” Romney said.
The senator said there needs to be a national strategy for speeding up testing of COVID-19 so people can get the results and act accordingly.
“Without that, we’re going to continue to see cases rise,” Romney said.
Romney said he hopes to see schools reopen in the fall, but if that leads to a spike in COVID-19 cases, the schools are going to have to adjust or shut down again.
“Let’s try to get them open. The idea of our kids not being able to go to school and parents not being able to go to work because they have got to care for their kids, that’s a real problem. So I hope we find a way to get our schools open. But I do trust the local administrators, the local decision-makers to do what they believe is right for the interests of our kids and our families at large.”
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