Ryan Wants More Aid for Cities, Hospitals, Business

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan wants to put more money into the Paycheck Protection Program, which has run out of money, but not without providing assistance to local governments and health-care organizations.

Created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the Paycheck Protection Program provided $349 billion in potentially forgivable loans through the U.S> Small Business Administration. Companies that keep their employees on payroll for eight weeks after receiving the loan may have their debt forgiven. 

Reports that the program had run out of money were confirmed shortly after the end of a virtual news conference this morning with Ryan, D-13 Ohio, who responded to questions about the program and other topics.

Surrogates for President Donald Trump seized on the news to criticize congressional Democrats.  

“Republicans worked tirelessly to pass a $250 billion replenishment of the PPP to keep the flow of relief to Ohio businesses going. As Ohio Democrats silently stood on the sidelines, Senate Democrats allowed Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to use their constituents as political pawns, blocking critical relief for countless small businesses,” said Dan Lusheck, an Ohio Trump spokesman in an email.

New funding for the small business program is “caught up in discussion” over other priorities that Democrats would like to see in a new coronavirus relief bill, Ryan said. 

There’s an agreement that the program needs more money but local governments and hospitals also need help, as well as programs that provide food for children who are no longer in school, he continued. 

Mayors and city council members throughout his district are concerned because they are seeing a “significant drop off” in their revenues, while Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stand in the way of providing assistance to them, according to Ryan.

“We’re not just going to do the small-business piece. We’ve got to take care of these local governments,” Ryan said. “That’s the gridlock right now and hopefully we can work through it.” 

Lusheck responded that Ryan was “playing a dangerous game” with the economy.

“President Trump’s whole of America approach to addressing coronavirus is taking important steps to help job creators and workers, as well as the first responders and health-care professionals on the front lines,” he said

Other topics Ryan addressed during the call included a request to include support for local media outlets in the next round of economic stimulus legislation and for the U.S. Postal Service, as well as a renewed push for monthly payments of $2,000 to qualifying Americans during the coronavirus outbreak.

Ryan pointed to last year’s closing of The Vindicator in Youngstown as an example of the erosion of local media organizations, a “long-running theme in the media industry,” which now is beset by lower advertising revenues as businesses cut back during the COVID-19 outbreak.  

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Ryan and a dozen colleagues called for including the Protect Local Media Act of 2020 in the next virus relief bill. The act would direct the Federal Communications Commission to designate 50% of government advertising to local outlets and provide a tax credit for newsroom hires through the end of the year. 

Ryan said he was concerned because of the potential loss of jobs, impact on local communities and “providing a level of sunlight and transparency to local government.” 

In addition, Ryan said he and others have been “pushing hard” to help the Postal Service. Trump is resisting efforts to support it because he wants to “destroy the agency,” Ryan said, and sell it to the private sector, in part because of his opposition to voting by mail. Last week, it was reported that Trump threatened to veto the Cares Act if it included aid to the Postal Service. The law ultimately included a $10 billion loan to the agency.

“It’s something we believe we have to have in place because we don’t know if his virus is going to come back in September or October,” Ryan said. 

Ryan’s proposed cash infusion, which he and U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna introduced Wednesday, would last until unemployment rates drop to pre-coronavirus levels. The proposal to provide qualifying Americans $2,000 a month has gotten “a lot of attention” over the past few days, Ryan said. 

“If we’re going to get out of this thing with a real economic push, we want to make sure people have money in their pockets now and as we reopen businesses,” he said. “I’m fairly optimistic about getting some version of this in the next bill.” 

Other topics Ryan discussed included recent developments with the General Motors-LG Chem battery plant in Lordstown and the president’s plans to release new guidelines for restarting the economy.

The virus outbreak might slow plans somewhat for the GM-LG Chem project and Lordstown Motors Corp., which plans to build electric pickup trucks in GM’s former Lordstown plant this year. 

“I would just say it’s delayed until we can get things back up and running,” Ryan said. “I think everybody is going to be affected one way or another.” 

GM is moving forward with site work for its project, following the news that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a necessary permit that allowed the company to begin work on the battery plant site.  

Ryan said he did not know what new guidance Trump might issue when it comes to reopening the economy after nearly a month of state-issued stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines. The president has been eager to see states relax measures that have frozen the economy and sent unemployment to unheard-of levels. On Thursday, the Department of Labor reported 5.2 million people had filed for unemployment benefits nationwide, bringing the four-week total to nearly 22 million.

The key to reopening the economy is going to be testing, and the United States is “still way behind” on having the number of tests needed, Ryan said. 

“Even CEOs were telling the president we cannot move forward until we have the confidence that comes with the testing,” he said.   

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.