U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie believes the coronavirus pandemic poses a double threat to the nation: a health care crisis and an economic crisis.
The Republican was back in Bowling Green this week but keeping an eye on Washington, where a $100 billion-plus coronavirus stimulus bill was approved by Congress on Wednesday and later signed into law by President Donald Trump. The bill provides free coronavirus testing, expands unemployment benefits and provides paid sick leave to some workers.
Guthrie said the federal government needs to continue to do what it can to prop up small businesses. He said he has spoken to many small business owners who “get emotional about their ability to stay in business. We have to do some relief there. Small businesses are worried about paying the bills (and are) worried that if they can’t make one payment they will be foreclosed on.”
The key moving forward is giving them flexibility on how they operate during the crisis, Guthrie said.
Guthrie supported the aid bill passed Wednesday, which was opposed by only eight senators, including his fellow Bowling Green Republican, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.
Paul wanted the coronavirus aid spending offset by other spending cuts.
“I ask my colleagues to stop wasting money in this time of crisis,” Paul said, according to The Courier Journal. “Stop being a rubber stamp for wasteful spending – do your jobs and prioritize our precious resources. It is our job and our responsibility to conserve our resources.”
As to the health crisis, Guthrie said “hopefully the actions we are taking now ... will lower the rate of infections.”
He said the coronavirus has about 10 times the death rate of the flu, and the large number of cases, even if not fatal, have the capability of “overwhelming our health care system.”
While the federal response to the pandemic has been criticized by many as lagging, Guthrie said the Trump administration was hampered because early on “we weren’t getting the information out of China.”
And as for Trump’s early downplaying of the seriousness of the virus, Guthrie said the president “was trying to keep people from panicking (and to) reassure people.” As recently as Feb. 26, Trump said at a news conference that the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. would soon “be down close to zero.”
As to rampant social media-fueled rumors relating to the pandemic, Guthrie said there has been no discussion on the federal level about declaring martial law or similar sweeping measures such as a national quarantine.