OKEECHOBEE — Congressman Greg Steube shared updates related to the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday during a conference call facilitated by the Chamber of Commerce of Okeechobee County.
The representative of Florida’s 17th Congressional District said the initial loan program for small businesses ran out of money, but they hope to allocate more money to the program.
He said unemployment benefits are available for those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The federal government has allocated the dollars for unemployment assistance and the states administer the program.
“If you are unemployed because of COVID-19, and you haven’t been able to get through that process, contact your state representative,” Rep. Steube suggested.
He said the original CARES Act included $9.5 billion in funding for farmers and ranchers, but UDSA has not yet determined how to allocate the money.
All immigration into the United States has been halted, said the congressman. However, the H2A visa program for temporary agricultural workers will not be disrupted. He said the H2A visa program no longer requires applicants to have in-person interview, which should help speed up the process.
Federal funding has been made available to municipalities of more than 500,000 people. What happens to the small cities and counties? Rep. Steube said Florida received $8.3 billion from the federal government. He encouraged officials in small cities and counties to reach out to the governor’s office for help from the state.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order for 30 days at the beginning of April, he continued. “I’m hopeful and optimistic at the end of April those … orders will be lifted.”
The president is already talking about starting phases to reopen everything, the congressman continued.
He said he hopes the governor does not extend the stay-at-home order and small businesses can decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable opening up, and continuing to require the social distancing.
If you over the age of 65 and you are more at risk or have underlying health issues such as diabetes, “obviously you should stay home,” Rep. Steube said.
A poll this morning showed 65% of Americans wear face masks when they do go out, he said. People can continue to take precautions when businesses reopen, he said.
The money spent on the COVID-19 pandemic could mean a shortfall in funding in other areas in the future.
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan money that has already been allocated won’t be affected, he said, but it could impact future funding.
“We’re already spent almost $7 trillion this year when we have only taken in $2.5 trillion,” he explained. “At some point, the budget deficit will have to be addressed.”
The congressman encouraged constituents with more questions to call his office at 202-225-5792 and to follow RepGregSteube on Facebook or Twitter.