WAYLAND — A fourth stimulus package may be on its way, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said during a stop in Henry County as part of her 99-county tour.
During a private meet and greet at MD Orthopaedics on Wednesday afternoon, Ernst told local residents federal aid will focus specifically on areas most impacted by the pandemic.
“It will not be like Phase 3, we cannot spend another $3 trillion — we can’t do that — so what we intend to do is be very focused on COVID recovery,” Ernst said
In response to a question about access to broadband, the senator added she is working to make sure funding within the package will go toward rural development as well as support for farmers.
“We still see significant impact across the ag industry,” she said. Additionally, Ernst is proposing a bill on child care, which will provide more grants to bridge the gap in need.
Ernst added she is proposing a new bill called the Frontline Act, which will “reward people who worked” during the pandemic. The new bill would allow workers to keep their federal tax dollars for the duration of the pandemic and is in part a response to the additional unemployment funds provided by the earlier stimulus package that she believes have discouraged workers from returning.
“We have businesses now that need employees, and those employees are saying ‘Why on earth would I go back to work when I’m at home and I’m making an extra $2,4000 a month?’” she said.
Robert Meyer, chief executive office of Wayland State Bank, noted with the conclusion of the second round of the Payroll Protection Program, local businesses may “see some real struggles,” as the end of the month approaches.
“I’m not for more stimulus. I mean we’ve created enough debt, but just so we’re aware of it, there’s going to be some [struggle],” Meyer said.
Ernst is currently suggesting another round of PPP loans to the “most distressed” businesses. The senator noted there still is $100 billion in the fund that has not been applied for by small businesses.
The senator addressed school reopenings and said she believes schools will be able to begin face-to-face instruction in the fall but will leave it in the hands of local school boards and districts to make the best decision for their own area.
“The overall socialization and learning for children is better when they’re in that learning environment,” Ernst said, adding rural schools are especially important because many students rely on them for meals.
“I was asked … if my daughter had been K-12 age, would I be comfortable sending her back and I said ‘Absolutely.’ I really have faith that those school administrators and our school boards will make that right decision,” she added.
The senator was asked to provide her perspective on the response and guidance provided by the CDC and other health care organizations during the pandemic. A local doctor noted there was sometimes a lack of guidance as the medical community attempted to navigate the virus.
“I am not a virologist,” Ernst said, “That’s the hard thing is that we’re reliant upon other medical professionals for the information that they provide to us.”
“You’ve got combating opinions out there. For someone out there like me, who’s not in medicine, I’m confused as heck. It’s been a difficult time, just competing interests across the board,” she added.