U.S. Rep. John Katko is hopeful that Congress will pass legislation that gives the economy a boost during the coronavirus outbreak.
Katko, R-Camillus, provided an update on congressional negotiations during a telephone town hall Monday evening. The White House and Senate are trying to finalize a $2 trillion stimulus bill.
There are several provisions Katko wants to see in the final measure. He supports aid for hospitals, funding for COVID-19 tests and vaccine development and help for state governments.
Direct payments to workers, grants and loans for small businesses, funding to expand unemployment insurance and aid for public transit systems could also be in the final bill.
While the coronavirus outbreak is a major public health crisis, it's also having a negative effect on the economy. The stock market continues to decline, employers are cutting jobs and some businesses are closing due to the pandemic.
"We understand that if people are out of work for a substantial period of time, it's going to have a gigantic effect on the economy," Katko said. "We're trying to do everything we can and come across with as best a package as we can."
Katko believes that Congress has been working in a bipartisan manner during the outbreak. He noted that there was support from both parties for two other coronavirus-related bills.
As negotiations continue, Katko said he's had conversations with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand — a Democrat and one of New York's U.S. senators.
"It's not about party with us," he said. "It's about getting things done."
After his update, Katko took questions for the remainder of the telephone town hall. He was joined by Dr. Robert Corona, CEO of Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, and Food Bank of Central New York Executive Director Karen Belcher.
One caller from Manlius asked about a proposal that could allow small business owners to receive loans from the federal government. If small businesses retain employees, the loans would be forgiven.
Katko was careful to note that it's not finalized yet, but he supports that provision.
"I think it would be a huge plus for small businesses," he said.
There were some medical questions that Corona answered. One was submitted by Melissa from King Ferry in Cayuga County. She asked if she should worry about contracting COVID-19 from the mail.
While there was concern about packages sent from China early in the outbreak, Corona said he hasn't heard of anyone catching the coronavirus from shipments.
"I don't think you should be afraid of it," he said. "There are signs that show the virus can survive on surfaces. Depending upon the porousness of the surface, the virus can last for a few days. But I'm pretty sure the (U.S. Postal Service) is taking precautions."
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.
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