By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis is proposing a series of amendments to the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill making its way through the Senate that she said will redirect funds within the bill to better serve Wyoming’s needs.
Lummis is proposing four amendments dealing with Indian Health Services, the Small Business Administration, Veterans Affairs and the last coronavirus aid package.
“My goal is to try and redeem some of the spending in this bill, by redirecting it to programs that will actually support groups and individuals that have been really impacted by the pandemic, like our tribes, veterans and small business owners,” Lummis told Cowboy State Daily.
As it stands, the 628-page bill would provide most taxpayers with a third economic stimulus payment of $1,400, designed to offset the impacts of coronavirus shutdowns. The bill also provides an additional $400 per week in unemployment benefits through the end of August, expands child tax credits and provides extra funding for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, state, local and tribal government relief, rental assistance and schools.
One of Lummis’ amendments would transfer about $700 million to the Indian Health Service, while another would move more than $1.4 billion to Veterans Affairs programs, including state veterans homes and veterans community care.
Lummis’ third amendment would extend the expiration of the federal “Payroll Protection Program” by 30 days and allow businesses to choose whether they want to participate in the PPP or “Shuttered Venue Grant” program.
“This is a concern that a Wyoming resident brought to the senator’s attention this week,” a statement from Lummis’ office said. “This is a critical amendment for Wyoming concert and theater venues as well as rodeo and fair grounds to help ensure they can keep their doors open for the long run.”
The final amendment would simply insert language into the bill that would specify that groups or individuals who received money through the last round of coronavirus assistance should use that money before spending money made available under the latest bill.
Republicans have criticized the bill, drafted by congressional Democrats, alleging it contains spending not directly related to the coronavirus.
Lummis said she was disappointed with the way the Democrats have handled the latest relief bill.
““Last year, Republicans and Democrats worked in a bipartisan manner to pass five coronavirus-related bills, so it’s sad to see that this time Democrats opted to work behind closed doors to craft a highly partisan bill instead of working with us to again provide a lifeline to families, businesses and communities hit by the pandemic,” she said.