April 26, 2020
By: Congressman Gus Bilirakis
Last week was quite busy, with a trip to D.C. to vote on a package that will help small businesses. Additionally, my team and I worked with the IRS and the state of Florida to try to help expedite individual aid to constituents in need.
I know many people are still hurting and I will continue fighting for you. Continue reading to learn more about my work on your behalf.
Providing Individual HelpEconomic Stimulus
In last week’s briefing with the IRS, I was told that the IRS portal is currently being refined and that by Tuesday the updated portal should fix the “payment status not available” and the “cannot verify eligibility” error messages that many people are receiving.
In order to facilitate these improvements, the system will be down from 10 pm – 1 am tonight through Sunday. Those who have yet to receive payment can check daily to see if their information has been updated in the system. Each day, the IRS is distributing millions of checks and it is continuing to work on the data transfer with Social Security Administration and the VA. It is still hoping to have as many checks as possible distributed by Tuesday. If you have not received your stimulus check by Tuesday, you can email FL12IRS@mail.house.gov and my team will submit an individual inquiry on your behalf.
Last week the state opened up a portal for Members of Congress to submit individual inquiries on behalf of their constituents. My staff submitted many inquiries, and while some received generic responses from the state, others received phone calls and helpful responses.
While I still have no direct jurisdiction over this program, I will continue to try to help my constituents in every way possible. The state has informed me that it is now processing over 100,000 applications per day and is making continued upgrades to its website in order to help more people.
To clarify, the additional federal benefits ($600 extra per week) will be administered by the state. The state has also said it is still working on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance website for independent contractors, sole proprietors, and those whose hours have been reduced but are still working. As soon as the link becomes available I will share it.
More Direct Help to Our Community
I am pleased to report that local communities in my district have received direct aid as part of the CARES Act to provide support to constituents and improve the community’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. Pinellas County received $170,129,283.40 and Pasco County received $96,659,479.80. Local leaders best understand how to meet the needs of the communities they serve, which is why I supported the inclusion of this direct aid to local officials through the CARES Act.
I have already heard from county officials about how they will implement creative strategies to help local small businesses and residents. Many people in our community are hurting and I am eager to see the funding that has been allocated with the intention of providing immediate relief finally get into the hands of those who need it most. The Department of Treasury has issued this guidance providing wide latitude for how these funds can be used to help meet the needs of each community during this difficult time.
Helping Small BusinessesLast week the President signed a bill Congress passed to help small businesses. I spoke on the House Floor in support of this small business package. Click here to listen. The bill provides an infusion of funding for two programs: the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The bill provides $60 billion for EIDL Loans, $10 billion of which is set aside for advances of $1,000 per employee up to $10,000 per applicant.
I know some of you are still waiting to hear from the SBA about the status of your application. The legislation provides funding for the SBA to hire temporary employees to assist with processing pending applications, which will help.
The bill also contains $310 billion for PPP, $60 billion of which is set aside for community banks and credit unions which have a track record of successfully approving PPP applications for the smallest businesses. This is a provision I fought for during negotiations. These institutions are also eligible to apply for the remaining portion. Locally, I know several community banks are accepting applications for non-customers who have been unable to obtain a PPP loan through their existing lender.
Since the establishment of the Paycheck Protection Program, I have heard from countless small-town, constituent business owners that the application process was difficult to navigate and that many lenders were not receptive to their needs. Meanwhile, it was frustrating to discover that many well-known business chains received millions of dollars in program funds, and that those applications may have been prioritized by lending institutions.
In response to these revelations, I urged that any future funding of the Paycheck Protection Program contain a set-aside, specifically for the truly small businesses of our nation. The set-aside of Paycheck Protection funds for community banks and credit unions, which passed as part of the bill, is a reflection of my work on this issue.
But, as we move forward, we need to find even better ways to ensure our local businesses get the help they need in this or any future crisis. Our nation’s family-owned businesses, mom-and-pop shops, and sole-proprietors are already trying to compete with national, and sometimes, international competitors during good times.
They are there for our communities, engaging in local charities, teaching our kids entrepreneurial lessons, and bettering our nation. They should not be forgotten in their time of need.
I will be introducing legislation which will do even more to provide direct support to these small businesses. I understand that they are the backbone of our economy and I will not stop fighting to ensure our community gets the help it needs.
Many people have had questions about the recipients of funding from Round 1 of the Paycheck Protection Program. This is the first concrete data I’ve seen from the Small Business Administration. Remember, the goal is to keep as many Americans as possible employed during this difficult time.
Improving our Ability to Respond to a Crisis
Each day we learn more about the virus and the steps government can take to adapt and respond, as well as be better prepared for future threats to public health. Here are three bipartisan bills that will help streamline the response to the current pandemic and pave the way for more efficiency in the future:
1. The Stockpiling for America’s Future Endeavors (SAFE) Act, would allow the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to accept gifts from companies and individuals during this emergency. Under current law, the SNS needs to receive approval from HHS and General Service Administration (GSA) through a cumbersome process that often delays or prevents these critical donations.
2. The Stockpile Inventory Modernization Act of 2020 would allow the SNS to sell existing products when they are no longer needed. This will reduce waste and ensure the SNS has resources to reinvest in supplies needed for future public health emergencies, saving taxpayer dollars and helping keep the SNS’s inventory current.
3. The Medical Supplies for Pandemics Act of 2020 would allow for public-private partnerships to maintain and strengthen the SNS; provide resources to ensure the SNS is well-equipped to respond to public health emergencies; and provide incentives to manufacturers to work with the federal government to stock the SNS.
Investing in a Cure
Last week, my colleagues and I filed bipartisan legislation to help advance research into better treatments and a possible cure for childhood cancer. Click here to learn more.
Constituent CornerLast week I received this letter from a constituent.Just wanted to say Thank you. I received a $1000 today from the SBA. It will help us pay our mortgage this month. Now keeping my fingers crossed for the PPP loan so I can buy new stock and hopefully get my business back going again in the near future but this helps so much. Still hoping for the Stimulus to come 🙂
Also, We finally were approved for a partial amount that we requested by Prudential Retirement for a hardship. Not the full amount we asked for but it will help get us get caught back of being behind on bills in April .They said they hadn’t adopted the loan payment deferment on 401K loans yet and not sure if they will but asked for us to check back . Hoping they will .
Your office was the only only to contact us from the Senators and others we contacted and our family cannot Thank you and Mr. Gus Bilirakis enough. He has our vote and will definitely will mention the support he and you have given to all we know. Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts .
This is just one example of the work we do each and every day. Constituent services are a critical element of our congressional office. The federal government is a massive operation, and my office is available if you ever need assistance in navigating the bureaucracy or cutting through red tape. We are here to serve you!
Recognizing those Who ServeLast week was National Volunteer Appreciation Week. There are millions of Americans selflessly giving of their time and talents to help improve the lives of others, especially during this difficult time. To all those who are making a positive difference, thank you for your volunteer service!
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