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Northern Panhandle lawmakers react to coronavirus aid talks

WHEELING — Delegate Erikka Storch says many local businesses want to be open for customers, but they are being hindered by a lack of employees who are finding it more lucrative to stay home and collect unemployment benefits.

It is just one issue Congress is considering as they discuss the next round of economic stimulus initiatives to assist Americans financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Legislation already passed provided those losing jobs a $600 weekly payment in addition to the unemployment compensation they typically would receive, and increased the number of weeks they could be eligible for benefits. The additional $600 payment expired last week.

“From the chamber perspective, I have been hearing several small business owners finding it very difficult to get employees to come back to work,” said Storch, R-Ohio, who also serves as president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce. “It is creating a great deal of frustration. Even though they can be open and operational, they are finding it difficult to man the ship.

“A lot of creative local entrepreneurs have come up with some innovative ideas during the pandemic, and have worked to implement them so they can get operational. When they are restricted from being able to do that because of the government money that is flowing, that creates a hardship on them.”

It is also an expense being passed on to the American taxpayer, she acknowledges.

“It’s scary what our debt is. It is huge already,” Storch said.

The U.S. debt presently is estimated at more than $26 trillion following the initial round of economic stimulus packages. Most Americans received a $1,200 stimulus earlier this year as a result of stimulus packages, and could receive a second under the GOP-proposed “HEALS Act” legislation being discussed.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell, R-Kentucky, and President Trump have been clear about keeping the package around $1 trillion, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has advocated for about $3 trillion in spending.

“There will have to be a compromise. A $3.3 trillion bill — which the Democrats are advocating for — is a non-starter,” she said. “What we are experiencing right now is unprecedented, and additional targeted relief is necessary. However, the Senate will not be on board with the type of unlimited spending and liberal politics that are in Speaker Pelosi’s fantasy wish list bill.”

Delegate Patrick McGeehan, R-Hancock, termed any stimulus plan “short-sighted.”

“Now it is something far worse than that,” he said. “These are policies pieced together by people who no longer give any thought to the survival of this country. The national debt has now surpassed $26 trillion. There’s good reason to believe that it will pass $30 trillion by year’s end. And where is the government getting the money? That’s probably the most reckless aspect of the entire idiotic enterprise.”

Still, there are many people in the country who have a need for an economic stimulus, according to Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock.

“I think for the people who haven’t been able to get their jobs back yet and have bills, it’s probably a good idea,” he said. “People still have to pay bills, buy food for their family, and make their house and car payments.

“I just think it would be a better idea if we could get all of this behind us, and get back to some kind of normalcy for the country.”

West Virginia Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, said a second round of stimulus packages for Americans could be a good idea depending on what is in the legislation.

“There are still people and businesses out there who are hurting, so I think some action by the federal government would be a good thing,” he said. ” Again, it just depends on what the House and Senate are able to come to agreement on.”

Weld wonders whether Congress can fully balance the issues of the economy and the needs of American families with current political pressures.

“D.C. doesn’t fully doesn’t understand,” he said. “As a state, we are constitutionally mandated to have a balanced budget, whereas the federal government has been working on continuing resolutions for years. They haven’t passed a budget in close to a decade, at this point.

“I think sometimes they just lack the understanding of the federal deficit, and the ability to put partisanship aside and concentrate on the American people,” Weld said

(King can be contacted at jking@theintelligencer.net)

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