U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the recent bipartisan agreement on a new targeted COVID-19 relief package, for which he has been advocating for months. This legislation will include a second round of Paycheck Protection Program funding for the hardest-hit small businesses and additional money to help schools reopen and safely operate, support vaccine distribution, and prioritize coronavirus treatment and other frontline medical needs. Thune also noted that the agreement will include his Paycheck Protection for Producers Act, which will help more farmers and ranchers benefit from the Paycheck Protection Program, and an extension of his Employer Participation in Repayment Act, which was originally included in a previous COVID relief package. The Senate is expected to consider the agreement as soon as today.
Excerpt of Thune’s remarks:
“Mr. President, I’m very pleased that we have reached an agreement on a final COVID relief package – and none too soon.
“Last week, we celebrated what will hopefully be a turning point in the COVID fight – the first U.S. coronavirus vaccinations.
“We need to build on that momentum and make sure that vaccine distribution goes swiftly and smoothly – so that we can vaccinate as many Americans as possible, as quickly as possible.
“The COVID relief package will help us achieve that goal by providing important funding for vaccine distribution.
“It will also provide critical support to Americans to help them weather the rest of this pandemic, including:
“A second round of Paycheck Protection funding for the hardest-hit small businesses.
“Money to help schools reopen and safely operate so that our kids aren’t left behind.
“And more money for coronavirus treatment and other front-line medical priorities.
“I’m very pleased that the final package includes my Paycheck Protection for Producers Act, which will help more farmers and ranchers benefit from the Paycheck Protection Program.
“The bill also includes funding to allow the Department of Agriculture to provide additional assistance to farmers and ranchers.
“Ag producers were dealing with a challenging agriculture economy even before the pandemic hit, and the coronavirus has only made things tougher.
“I strongly advocated for including additional funding for farmers and ranchers in this legislation, and I am very glad that the final bill includes this support.
“The final package also explicitly makes biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel eligible for USDA assistance, at the discretion of the secretary of agriculture.
“Biofuel producers have suffered from the drop in fuel demand during the pandemic, and I hope the secretary will ensure that they are able to receive assistance – which will further help our ag economy recover.
“Mr. President, I’m very happy that the COVID relief package includes an extension of the Thune-Warner Employer Participation in Repayment Act.
“The Thune-Warner bill allows employers to make tax-free contributions to their employees’ student loans, up to $5,250 per year.
“This is a win for employees, who get help paying off their student loans.
“And it’s a win for employers, as they look to attract and retain talented workers.
“Our bill was included in the CARES Act – the major coronavirus relief legislation we passed in March – but it was scheduled to expire at the end of the year.
“Under the coronavirus relief package, however, our legislation will be extended for an additional five years.
“The COVID relief package also includes Senator Cornyn’s Small Business Expense Protection Act, which I co-sponsored.
“This legislation will ensure that small businesses that qualify for forgiveness of their Paycheck Protection Program loans can still deduct their ordinary business expenses on their taxes.
“The relief package also includes legislation I introduced this summer with Senator Enzi that will establish anti-fraud measures within the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, so that we can ensure that beneficiaries are truly eligible for the program.
“Mr. President, we’ve addressed a lot of coronavirus priorities in this relief package, and I am very pleased that we are finally getting it out the door.
“Republicans spent months pushing for additional, targeted coronavirus relief, and I am glad that Democrats finally decided they were ready to work with us in a bipartisan way to arrive at legislation.
“I am sorry that my Remote and Mobile Worker Relief Act was not included in the final bill.
“This bipartisan legislation would have prevented unexpected tax bills and tax complications for medical professionals who traveled to other states to help during the pandemic, and for Americans who worked from home to help slow the virus’s spread.
“It’s unfortunate that opposition from a handful of states with aggressive taxation policies – like the Senate Democrat leader’s home state of New York – has so far prevented legislation like mine from getting through Congress, but I will continue to fight for tax relief for remote and mobile workers.
“Mr. President, it’s been a very difficult year for our country.
“And this winter is likely to be very challenging.
“But the light at the end of the tunnel is coming.
“And we are going to make it through.
“I look forward to sending additional relief to the American people.”