Keller, Corman participate in townhall
Congressman Fred Keller spoke with constituents on May 21 through a tele-townhall with special guest Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman.
The elected officials covered responses to the COVID-19 pandemic on the federal and state levels, as well as plans to reopen Pennsylvania’s economy.
“During this time, people across Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District have stood up to support one another,” Keller said. “...Most of all, we have seen the robust American spirit that will never be overcome by any adversity, including a global pandemic.”
Over the past few months, he said Americans have banded together, succeeding in flattening the curve, and now it’s time to reopen society.
Meanwhile, he said Congress has passed with his support four bipartisan legislative packages addressing public health and economic impacts of COVID-19, totaling approximately $3 trillion.
As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security act, he said Pennsylvania received nearly $5 billion for these purposes.
“While all of these federal funds have not yet been driven out to their final destination, we are working closely with elected officials at the state level to ensure Pennsylvania receives the support we need,” he said.
Keller said he has focused on making sure that everything Congress passes specifically addresses the impact of COVID-19, so he was disappointed when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi pushed a bill without bipartisan support with details unrelated to the pandemic.
Speaking on the state side, Corman said Gov. Tom Wolf has been running the state “unilaterally for the most part,” and the legislature has done its best to “try to keep him in check” while assisting constituents.
He added that when it comes to Wolf’s phased reopening plan, “We thought we had a better idea by letting the counties decide best how to move forward… We’re continuing to push the governor in any ways we possibly can.”
Fielding a question about where he stands on providing another stimulus payment for constituents, Keller reminded that taxpayers of the U.S. ultimately pay the price.
The CARES Act initially gave up to $1,200 to individuals as a way of getting through the pandemic, and now that the country is reopening, he prefers to look at policies that could help people get back to work.
“The best form of economic stimulus is a job,” he said.
One constituent asked about shortfalls with the Paycheck Protection Program through the U.S. Small Business Administration and how Congress plans to address them.
In the beginning, Keller said the idea was a “short-term, flatten the curve” measure, but this has extended longer depending on the part of the nation you live in.
“I’m very supportive of ensuring that we grant needed flexibility to the PPP, that truly works to benefit the businesses as Congress intended,” he said. “We’ve been advocating with the Treasury Department that it make changes and have flexibility. One size does not fit all.”
“We do have a bill before the House that would be allowing for forgiveness beyond the eight week covered period, changing or eliminating the 25 percent restriction between payroll and other expenses,” he added.
Corman addressed a question about whether it’s possible on the federal or state level to put a stop to Gov. Wolf’s emergency powers.
“In the Act 35 emergency provision which the governor is operating on, it does allow for a provision for the legislature to vote through a concurrent resolution to end the emergency,” he said. “But there’s also another part of the Constitution where it says concurrent resolutions are to be presented to the governor.”
“We’re trying to work with the governor, but if he makes the decision to extend the state of emergency past the end of the first 90 days, then I think the amount of frustration is going to mount to the point where the legislature may take this on,” Corman added.