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Questions for a congressman: Rent relief, disaster checks and small business assistance

WFAA's Jason Whitely talks with Congressman Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth.
Credit: AP
A closed sign hangs in the window of a shop in Portsmouth, N.H., due to caronavirus Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Most of the restaurant and retail businesses in the city have closed, with some offering takeout or pick-up orders, due to the virus outbreak. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

FORT WORTH, Texas — If the coronavirus pandemic drags on for months or hits the country with a second wave of infections, small businesses will need to be prioritized in further federal relief, Congressman Marc Veasey said Wednesday.

“We know that our larger corporations are going to need some help, but our first priority needs to be the individual person out there, the individual family that’s out there,” he said in a phone call with WFAA.

Veasey, a Democrat from Fort Worth who sits on the U.S. House’s Small Business Committee, introduced a bill in Congress this week that, if passed, would eliminate bureaucratic red tape and expedite the awarding of federal contracts for small businesses.

“It’s going to be a lot harder for them once we get passed this to get back on their feet than it’s going to be for the larger corporations, so let’s do everything we can to help them now,” Veasey continued.

The legislation would affect “countless” businesses in his district and across the state, he added.

Within the past few days, the U.S. Small Business Administration already began offering long-term, low-interest loans to small businesses who qualify across the state, said Governor Greg Abbott.

"Small businesses are the foundation of our state’s economy and they need all the help they can get as the ripple effects of COVID-19 impact their everyday operations," the governor said.

Texas small businesses who believe they may be eligible for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan can visit this link.

“There’s going to be more measures that will need to be taken in the coming weeks and days. Hopefully, we can get past this in a relatively short period of time. But in case it does drag on,” Veasey said, “we are going to have more legislation that is going to be talked about and debated.”

But the mechanics of how congress physically approves legislation while also practicing social distancing remains uncertain.

Congressman Veasey said U.S. House members are trying to come up with ways to voice vote to avoid traveling to Washington, D.C., but if one lawmaker objects, he said, that could make it impossible.

The most paramount piece of legislation right now is the $2 trillion federal relief bill.

RELATED: $2 trillion virus rescue bill hits late snags in Senate

At the time of this interview, Veasey could not yet tell constituents how soon they would receive checks from the government.

“We're trying to get that done ASAP,” he said. “We want to make sure that people can start getting checks ASAP.”

Outside the beltway, the subject of rent relief or deferred mortgage payments have also come up as thousands of Texans have lost their jobs because of the government orders.

“I think that the governor can already do that. I think that the state can suspend rent payments. If you want to you can suspend payments for people who have already lost their jobs. I think that’s something we could already be doing, and I would certainly support that. I think it’s going to have to be done,” Veasey said.

That is indicative of options that remain in the fast-moving political response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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