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Smith Opening Statement at Subcommittee Hearing on Tax Relief to Support Workers and Families during the COVID-19 Recession

June 18, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures Adrian Smith (R-NE) delivered the following opening statement at a Full Committee Hearing on Tax Relief to Support Workers and Families during the COVID-19 Recession.

CLICK HEREto watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery: 

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling today’s hearing.

“The partial shutdown of our economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and Congress’s response to it, through the bipartisan CARES Act – are both unprecedented.

“Before this pandemic shocked our nation, our economy was on incredibly strong footing. Thanks in part to a historic rewrite of our tax code and balanced  regulatory relief, Americans were enjoying the strongest economy in years: in February, the national unemployment rate was 3.5%, GDP was growing steadily, and the highest wage gains in our economy were being seen by low-wage earners because the demand for labor was so high.

“This downturn is unlike any other. Unlike former crises, it isn’t the result of risky mortgages or irrational exuberance for technology stocks. The economic state we are in today is the result of state and local governments across the country asking Americans to stay home, socially distance, and protect themselves, their families, and their friends and neighbors.

“This was important in order to lock down the virus. And on a federal level, among many things, we enacted the CARES Act on a bipartisan basis to be a health and economic bridge, with the goals of helping local businesses keep Americans working and supporting workers who temporarily lost their jobs. Our economy needed a cushion so that once health conditions permitted reopening, we could get up and running again.

“There are still many unknowns we must deal with, such as the future progression of this disease and how successful CARES Act programs ultimately will be in keeping our economy steady in the long term.

“However, we know Americans are resilient and want to work to provide for their families. Main Street businesses across my district tell me daily they desperately want to keep their doors open, keep paying their employees, and be able to continue serving their communities in the way they were until earlier this year.

“For this reason, our primary focus must be on ensuring future legislation is focused on reopening our economy and incentivizing a safe return to work.

“We are ready to work with you toward this goal, and we have good ideas to contribute.

“Mr. Rice is working on a bill which will help businesses to reopen safely.  To restore worker and customer confidence, it would create a temporary tax incentive through the end of 2020 to help businesses defray costs for testing, PPE, and reconfiguring workplaces: stores, plants, offices.

“The CARES Act provided aid and cash to our main street businesses; the popular PPP program was nothing short of successful in buttressing our economy these past few months. But more help may be needed. That is why we should also explore additional ideas to help businesses maintain liquidity during these trying times, which will help them keep their doors open and employees on the payroll as we resume our economy.

“In order to make sure returning to work is more rewarding than staying home, Mr. Brady has introduced a bill which would provide two weeks of enhanced UI benefits to Americans after they return to work.

“Ensuring that the America has a strong economic footing while coming out of this pandemic is vital to getting people back to work.  That is why we should make America more competitive in the global marketplace by increasing R&D incentives and making expensing permanent.

“We also recognize that helping Americans who were already on the sidelines to return to the workforce is much more challenging now than it was three months ago.

“Demand for workers isn’t the only issue; the pandemic has also made it harder for workers to access transportation, childcare, and other resources necessary to successfully remain in the workforce.

“We were working to address these issues prior to the pandemic, and the need is even stronger now.

“In 2018, we introduced the JOBS for Success Act to help states better utilize existing welfare program to bring Americans most-in-need into good-paying jobs. 

“Our reforms would require states to work directly with individuals to connect them with jobs. It would also improve the ability of states to utilize TANF funds to assist with supports like childcare and transportation to help people stay in the workforce.

“These were bipartisan ideas two years ago, and we continue to support them now.

“Mr. Chairman, we must work on a bipartisan basis to provide the tax relief necessary for employers to resume employing, helps workers continue working, and to ensure access to economic opportunity is available to every American.

“I yield back.”

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