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Manchin, Capito call for cooperation on stimulus package

HOME-STATE VISIT — U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, second from right, and Shelley Moore Capito, middle, join Dana Gartzke, far left, chief of staff for the U.S. Economic Development Administration, in presenting grant funding to officials with the City of Huntington. (Photo by Steven Allen Adams)

CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s two U.S. senators hope their colleagues in Congress and the White House can quickly come to a deal on the next trillion-dollar aid package for COVID-19 health and economic issues.

U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito, Republican, and Joe Manchin, Democrat, were in South Charleston Monday morning with Dana Gartzke, chief of staff for the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

“We’ve got to reach a conclusion here, hopefully by the end of this week,” Capito said. “It doesn’t appear as though that is the direction that we’re going, but for everyone in this room and everyone in this state and everyone in this country under these circumstances, we have got to have more help for people.”

“It’s being run from the White House. They’re basically making the negotiations,” Manchin said.

Capito and Manchin agree a deal can be reached between Republicans and Democrats. Both pointed to their own relationship in working for the best interests of West Virginia versus scoring partisan points.

“There are not many differences on where we think the money needs to go,” Capito said. “We have pretty good agreement between (Manchin) and I. But it’s gotten into a political arena, unfortunately, that’s not serving us all very well at the moment.”

“We’re getting a group together right now because there is commonality between Democrats and Republicans,” Manchin said. “It’s the safety and well-being of all the citizens of West Virginia that we’re concerned about.”

Capito and Manchin returned to Capitol Hill after Monday’s grant presentation as negotiations continued on the next coronavirus aid package. According to the Wall Street Journal, Democratic congressional leaders Monday met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed its pandemic relief package in May, which included direct funding for municipalities and an extension of the $600-per-week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. The House plan has a $3 trillion price tag.

The Republican-controlled Senate presented its version of pandemic relief that would replace the $600-per-week unemployment benefit, which expired last week, with $200 per week until the end of September, when it would decrease to 70 percent of the recipient’s lost wages. The bill would also put more money in the Paycheck Protection Program and increase tax breaks for businesses who retain employees. The price tag for the Senate plan is $1 trillion.

Capito said there are many moving parts to the new pandemic relief plan, but lawmakers need to make sure the money reaches the people with the most need.

“We’ve got to have a fair and balanced way of pinpointing who needs help still and where the help is needed,” Capito said. “We’ve got to get a healthy America. We’ve got to get the kids back in school. We’ve got to get businesses open again. We’ve got to get people working again, so that means childcare. We’ve got a lot on our plate.”

For Manchin, a new pandemic package means making sure money reaches West Virginia for rural hospitals, frontline healthcare workers and first responders, and broadband expansion for telehealth.

“This is a medical crisis we’ve got, so you’ve got to make sure you have the medical investment for your hospitals,” Manchin said. “We can’t have any more hospitals closing…that is unacceptable in a medical pandemic.”

The EDA handed out more than $10 million for four projects Monday: $5.2 million for repairs to the Huntington Floodwall and for a study on rerouting stormwater and sewage systems, $2 million to the Benedum Airport Authority in Bridgeport for expansion as the airport plays host to more aerospace companies, $1.7 million for the Coalfield Development Corp. to rehabilitate three buildings in Matewan in Mingo County to create a job creations and training hub and $1.2 million to the Putnam Public Service District to expand water capacity for commercial and industrial businesses.

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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