Sen. Rubio: 'We Have to Keep People Employed'

By Susan Jones | March 19, 2020 | 5:03am EDT
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)  (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is among the Republicans who voted for a House-passed relief bill despite its flaws because "the psychological impact of not having voted for this today...would have been traumatic, and I think that's why the president supported it."

Rubio, along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is now working on another, much bigger stimulus bill to correct flaws in the earlier relief package, especially as it applies to small businesses.

The bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday requires many small businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees during the current coronavirus crisis, but it provides no funding for them to do that.

"There are things in that bill that need to be fixed and that are wrong, and that's why we are racing to get this additional bill, this third piece of legislation out the door," Rubio told Fox News's Martha MacCallum Wednesday evening:

And one of the prominent features of that is assistance to small business, and that's the piece that we're working on and we're trying to finalize tonight, working with Secretary Mnuchin, as you said, Senator Collins, Senator Crapo, Senator Alexander and others, and with our Democratic counterparts, too.

And the basic gist of it is, use private individual banks at the community level, along with the bigger banks, to get cash rapidly into the hands of small business -- and if they use that money to meet payroll for the next six weeks or so, and their other expenses of just staying afloat, but more importantly, the payroll, they will not have to pay that back, they'll be forgiven.

So, if they use it for other purposes or beyond that, then obviously, that would turn into a loan. But we just got -- we have to keep people employed. We cannot allow millions of Americans to be laid off and disconnected from the workforce and be home-quarantined and not knowing if there's a job for them in a few weeks when it's all -- goes back, we hope, to business.

Rubio made a distinction between a "normal economic downturn" and "bad decisions made by companies" versus the current public health crisis:

What we are dealing with here is a public health crisis, and the way the government has had to respond to the crisis is by telling the private sector not to open, not to work, not to serve customers, not to make money. And so, I don't know how they would pay that back.

We have basically stopped the private industry in this country. We have intervened to stop it in order to save lives.

So, this is a very different circumstance from what you saw with the economic downturn in the late 2000s or what you've seen in the past with downturns. This is -- this is government mandate. The government is basically by fiat telling the private sector it cannot function.

Businesses will close, but in the interim, they're going to lay off millions of Americans who are going to be stuck at home, in quarantine, or in -- you know, not going out, and on top of that, not even knowing if they have a job to go back to one day.

And the impact on this country that that would have is devastating, and the impact on small business.

You know, if you're a small business and all of your employees are laid off, and then we tell you, OK, you can restart now in a few weeks, in many cases, the employees won't be there anymore. Now, you've got to out and hire new people and retrain them. By the time you get started, it's all over for you.

Rubio called the pandemic "a real test for our country."

"We are being asked to mobilize as a people despite our political differences, despite all the other things that are going on, we are being asked to mobilize as a people to confront a threat.

"And, traditionally, that has been a foreign threat or an invasion or a military threat, but if we can't flatten the rate of infection, we put the lives not just of the elderly but of others in danger because hospitals will not be able to meet the demand of hospital beds and ventilators."

Rubio said there will be plenty of time in the future to "examine how we responded to this at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level. And I'm not saying those aren't valid questions to ask now, they could be.

"But we, at this moment, really need all the energy we can to deal with what we're doing right now and moving forward. We can't -- we can learn from the past so we don't repeat it, but we can't change the past. We can only influence what happens from this point forward."


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