Written by Cara Chapman for the Press-Republican on August 14, 2020
PLATTSBURGH — North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) voiced support for presidential memoranda signed by President Donald Trump and increased funding for the U.S. Postal Service during media availabilities at two Plattsburgh events Thursday.
She toured Lake Champlain Roofing and participated in a roundtable at South Junction Enterprises.
Stefanik reiterated her stance that there should be an incentive for getting people back to work.
That includes ramping down the additional $600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits which expired July 31, and or tying those benefits to employees’ previous wages.
She said she was for Trump’s order that directed $44 billion from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund for a federal share of extra unemployment assistance.
That number has been touted at $400 weekly so long as states pay 25 percent. But according to recently-issued U.S. Department of Labor guidance, states are not required to do so.
According to the order, only those who already receive at least $100 per week in benefitsareeligible for the additional $300 to $400.
PAYROLL TAX DEFERMENT
Anotherof the president’s executivememorandawould defer the employee portion of Social Security payroll taxes from Sept. 1 through the end of the year for those who generally earn less than $4,000 bi-weekly.
As of Thursday, there was no guarantee the taxes would be forgiven — though the order said the Treasury secretary “shall explore avenues” to eliminate it — and it would take an act of Congress in order for Social Security to receive those funds through the general fund instead.
The Press-Republican asked how Stefanik squares those factors with seniors’ potential need for Social Security and how people may not recognize thepossibility of having to pay those funds back later.
Stefanik pointed to how the Obama-Biden administration advocated for a payroll tax cut.
Congress and the Obama administration did reduce the payroll tax from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent in 2011 and 2012, and the funds were replaced via general revenue.
The congresswoman said the tax holiday was about lessening the tax burden on middle-class families, and that she thinks taxes should be lowered and, in this case, forgiven.
Asked if Trump’s orders went far enough when it comes to eviction relief and unemployment assistance, Stefanik said she would always prefer Congressional action.
“I still think there’s a need for bipartisan congressional legislation that’s signed into law.”
More than once, she expressed disappointment with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who she said walked away from negotiations.
Stefanik stated the need for funding for K-12 schools as well as aid to counties and municipalities and COVID-19-related relief for states, which were not addressed in the president’s orders.
Shevoiced support for businesses especially impacted by the pandemic — such as those in the tourism and hospitality industry, retail, restaurants and construction — to be eligible for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program funding.
She would like to see loans $150,000 and below be forgiven.
Stefanik did not give an exact timeline for when the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation would come to fruition, but said that members of Congress were on 24-hour call.
Stefanik said voters undergoing the absentee ballot application process should have a “no-reason” request if they feel unsafe going to the polls, and anticipated the state would make that change.
She is against the automatic ballot process, and pointed to a recent tele-town hall in which a constituent said he had never received his ballot for school elections.
“I think having that application process where there’s the signature verification, that’s important for ballot integrity.”
On what she was working on that would help equip the U.S. Postal Service to handle an influx of absentee ballots this fall, Stefanik said she supports increased funding for the agency, describing it as a lifeline to small towns and villages.
“But it’s not just tied to the election. It’s tied to prescriptions, it’s tied to really a lifeline of health and safety.”
Stefanik said USPS was facing fiscal issues prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and current election cycle, and that Congress should have addressed funding before.
It is worth noting that a 2006 law required the Postal Service to fund benefits for retirees up to an estimated 75 years in advance, and that the recession soon after led to a decrease in mail volume that has continued to the present.
Stefanik voted for the USPS Fairness Act, which passed the House earlier this year, that would endthe pre-funding mandate.
Trump stirred controversy in a Fox News Business interview Thursday morning in which he discussed USPS funding provisions sought by Democrats saying, “If we don’t make a deal (on COVID-19 relief), that means they don’t get the money.”
Many interpreted his statements as the president implicitly admitting he is blocking USPS funding in order to hinder mail-in voting.
CALLS OUT COBB
Echoing a statement from her campaign spokeswoman earlier this week, Stefanik said she supported Trump and Pence and called out her opponent in the 21st Congressional District race, Canton Democrat Tedra Cobb, for not commenting on presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden’s selection of California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate.
Cobb’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the Biden-Harris match-up by press time.
Stefanik said she was always proud to see women in politics, and that this was not the first time a woman has been on the presidential or vice presidential ticket.
She also noted her efforts to recruit more GOP women to run.
“We have more than ever before across the country who are running for Congress which is really exciting.”
BORDER, POLICE REFORM
Stefanik said the push for a gradual reopening of the U.S.-Canada border continues, and again voiced support for expanding essential travel categories, such as including property owners.
She believes the North Country’s low COVID-19 infection rates provide supportto those efforts.
On police reform, which may not see movement at the federal level before the election, Stefanik said she thought the JUSTICE Act, introduced by Sen. Tim Scott, “was a real opportunity to build bipartisan support.”
She pointed to provisions such as a ban on chokeholds, increased funding for officer training and required sharing of disciplinary records between departments.
Stefanik contended that Scott and other GOP Republicans were willing to accept multiple amendments from Democrats, “but Democrats walked away from that.”
She would support increased funding for training at law enforcement agencies in the North Country.
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