Curtis, Joyce Introduce RICH Act to Block Unemployment Benefits for Millionaires

Curtis, Joyce Introduce RICH Act to Block Unemployment Benefits for Millionaires

August 10,  2020

Washington, DC — Congressman John Curtis (R-UT) and Congressman John Joyce, M.D. (R-PA) introduced the Returning Inappropriate Cash Handouts (RICH) Act, which prohibits certain individuals from receiving temporary federal unemployment benefits authorized during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation specifically bars individuals with an income this year that exceeds $1 million from accessing these funds. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senate Republican Caucus Vice Chair, Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA).

“These are some of the most difficult times in our nation’s history. With unemployment levels at a record high, local economies across the country are working tirelessly to reopen in the safest way possible to help get Americans back to work,” said Curtis. “In the meantime, our goal should be to deliver targeted aid to those who desperately need it and we need to draw the line someplace. That’s what our bill seeks to do.”

“Congress acted decisively to deliver targeted assistance to the hardworking Americans who are struggling as we combat the coronavirus crisis,” said Joyce. “Millionaires shouldn’t be profiting on the backs of American taxpayers. The RICH Act will ensure that coronavirus relief reaches the American workers who need it most. I’m proud to work with Congressman Curtis to protect our workers and steward Americans’ tax dollars responsibly, and I thank Senator Ernst for championing this effort in the Senate.”

Background

The US Department of Labor currently prohibits state unemployment programs from denying unemployment claims to a person who lost a job even if the individual receives income from multiple sources. This led to over 2,500 individuals with incomes of over $1 million receiving unemployment insurance benefits in Tax Year 2017 alone and at a time when the national unemployment average reached historic lows.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act temporarily authorized the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which offered an additional $600 per week in federal unemployment payments to millions of Americans who recently lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that potentially thousands of individuals with incomes of greater than $1 million this year could have received these payments on top of the state unemployment benefits.

The bill would protect both those who need the benefits the most and the American taxpayers from these inappropriate payments by requiring all those seeking the federal unemployment benefit to certify that their income this year does not exceed $1 million.

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Reps Curtis, Lieu, Brooks, and DeGette Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect Athletes From Abuse

Reps Curtis, Lieu, Brooks, and DeGette Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect Athletes From Abuse

August 6,  2020

Washington, DC — Representative John Curtis (R-UT), co-chair of the Olympic Caucus, along with Ted W. Lieu (D-CA), Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) announced the introduction of the bipartisan Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act to help protect athletes from sexual abuse.

“America’s top-level athletes should be able to focus on the sport they love and not have to worry about being taken advantage of by bad actors,” Curtis said. “I am proud to be a Republican co-lead of the Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act to enhance safety for athletes by implementing needed reforms to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.”

The bill, which is a companion to Senators Jerry Moran and Richard Blumenthal’s legislation, will strengthen legal liability and accountability mechanisms for both the U.S. Olympic Committee and the governing bodies of specific sports. Additionally, it will create clear procedures and reporting requirements for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to ensure athletes are protected moving forward. The bill will also ensure that allegations of sexual abuse against athletes can be independently investigated without the interference of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee or a national sports governing body.

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Curtis Leads Bipartisan Legislation to Enhance Industries Hurt by Pandemic

Curtis Leads Bipartisan Legislation to Enhance Industries Hurt by Pandemic

August 2,  2020

Washington, DC — Representatives John Curtis (R-UT), Susan Wild (D-PA), Chip Roy (R-TX), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), and Dan Meuser (R-PA) released the following statements following the introduction of their new bipartisan bill to amend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’s (CARES Act) PPP helped deliver important tools to temporarily support millions of struggling businesses across the country and with the enhancements in the this new bill, the Paycheck Protection Program Small Business Enhancement Act, small businesses will be able to receive even more aid.

“Despite receiving a Paycheck Protection Program loan, countless Utah small business remain shuttered and could use the resources offered by the Paycheck Protection Program,” said Curtis. “This is especially the case in many of our tourism communities, like Southeastern Utah – from tour companies that organize trips to Utah’s natural treasures to bussing companies that transport adventurous travelers from across the globe through our famed national parks. A second PPP loan could be make or break for these mostly family-owned establishments and fighting to keep their doors open is a cause that I am unquestioningly willing to support.” 

“Getting America back to work means ensuring Americans have jobs to come back to. Since the beginning of this pandemic, the PPP program has helped keep more than 108,000 people in my district employed – and allowing businesses to access these funds a second time will help make sure they stay employed as we continue to face this public health emergency,” said Wild. “And when people do return to work, they need to feel safe doing so. By making sure businesses have the resources to create and maintain safe work environments – with plenty of PPE, sanitation services, and support for regular testing – we can start to create a framework in which economic recovery is possible. This bipartisan, commonsense effort protects small businesses and American workers, and I am proud to support it.”

“The PPP program – as modified by the bipartisan flexibility provisions I was happy to lead to pass – has helped millions of small businesses across the country and in Texas. They’ve been able to keep their doors open and their employees on the payroll. But for many I speak to in Texas, the public policies of closure and distancing are continuing to crush them, and they say the need another round to stay alive,” said Roy. “I am happy to work with my friend, Rep. Curtis, to offer targeted, clean legislation to focus on this problem and honor our obligation to make people whole for taking away their livelihoods.”

“The Paycheck Protection Program was a targeted response to unprecedented economic uncertainty. The program worked as it was intended – the average loan size was approximately $100,000, demonstrating its efficacy at helping small businesses across America weather the challenges brought on by COVID. In my district in Pennsylvania, nearly 8,000 forgivable PPP loans have been distributed, saving nearly 80,000 jobs. The provisions that Rep. Curtis, Roy, Van Drew, and I have worked on will ensure the PPP continues to truly help small businesses in a thoughtful, clear, and targeted way,” said Meuser. 

Statement of Support

Matt Haller, IFA Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs:

“The Paycheck Protection Program Small Business Enhancement Act is a thoughtful, effective plan to ensure that PPP loans are accessible to those who need them and effective for those who receive them. Reps. Curtis and Roy have put forward a strong bill that will address the most pressing issues for franchise small businesses and their employees across the country.”

Background

The Representatives are advocating for the following changes to PPP to help the aid go even further:

  1. Allowing a second PPP loan for businesses that have experienced a reduction in gross receipts of more than 20% as compared to last year
  2. Including 501(c)(6) nonprofits and franchised businesses that were left out of the first round of PPP to receive loans for the first time
  3. Allowing businesses to spend PPP funds on protective equipment and testing expenses
  4. Making eligible expenses tax deductible
  5. Ensuring that lenders, especially smaller community banks, continue to participate in PPP by easing the burden PPP places on them by:
  • Providing lenders with a robust safe harbor from liability for the statements and representations of borrowers
  • Allowing automatic forgiveness for loans under $150,000 while maintaining the ability of SBA to audit those loans for compliance

Congressman Curtis wrote an op-ed in the Deseret News earlier this week explaining that while the Paycheck Protection Program has helped Utah’s economy, small businesses desperately need more help, and proposed changes to the legislation to accomplish that goal. Click [HERE] to read.

Text of the bill available here.

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Bipartisan Curtis Bills Sail Through Natural Resources Committee

Bipartisan Curtis Bills Sail Through Natural Resources Committee

August 1,  2020

Washington, DC — Representative Curtis (R-UT), Deputy Republican Leader of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee on the House Natural Resources Committee, delivered the following remarks at the Natural Resources hearing. Two of the Congressman’s bipartisan bills were discussed in today’s markup and were included in a unanimous consent package, the AIR Safety Act and the SOAR Act.

“In my state alone, we’ve experienced nearly 550 wildfire starts this year. When these fires grow, our firefighters need to have every tool available to protect life and property – and too often private citizen drone usage will interfere and stop aerial suppression by flying near an active fire. My AIR Safety Act will take a closer look at these drone incursions and ways that we can remove interfering drones and deter incursions in the first place,” said Curtis. “Additionally, as the Republican sponsor of the SOAR Act, I am happy to see this bill moving and with such broad and bipartisan support for recreation. The SOAR Act will streamline recreation permitting and make our public lands more accessible to all Americans.”

Background

AIR Safety Act

The Congressman introduced the AIR Safety Act in November of last year with fellow Committee member, Representative Huffman (D-CA) and Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Mitt Romney (R-UT).

  • The Federal Aviation Administration sets Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) around wildfires. Although laws exist prohibiting interference with wildfire fighting, many people fly their private drones within TFRs to take pictures and videos of the fire. 
  • When unauthorized drones enter TFRs, events known as drone incursions, all aerial firefighting tools – including helicopters dropping flame retardant – must be grounded, resulting in valuable time and money being wasted that could otherwise be used to suppress the fire and save lives and property.
  • The bipartisan AIR Safety Act will bring attention to this issue and help determine the best ways to avoid future drone incursions.
  • The Committee unanimously approved an amendment to the AIR Safety Act to include state foresters in the carrying out the study.

SOAR Act

The SOAR Act streamlines and improves the recreational permitting process for federal agencies by:

  • Improving the process for issuing recreation permits by directing the agencies to eliminate duplicative processes, reduce costs, shorten processing times and simplify environmental review;
  • Increasing flexibility for outfitters, guides and other outdoor leaders by allowing them to engage in activities that are substantially similar to the activity specified in their permit;
  • Making more recreation opportunities available by directing the agencies to offer more short-term permits and create a program for sharing unused permit service days between permit holders;
  • Increasing system transparency by directing agencies to notify the public when new recreation permits are available and requiring the agencies to provide timely responses to permit applicants;
  • Simplifying the permitting process for trips involving more than one land management agency by authorizing the agencies to issue a single joint permit covering the lands of multiple agencies;
  • Reducing permit fees and cost recovery expenses for small businesses and organizations by excluding certain revenue from permit fee calculations and establishing a simple 50-hour cost recovery fee exemption for permit processing;
  • Providing new protections for Forest Service permit holders by recognizing seasonal demand fluctuations and waiving permit use reviews in extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the permit holder (wildfire, etc.);
  • Helping control liability insurance costs for permit holders by allowing them to use liability release forms with their clients; and
  • Reducing barriers to access for state universities, city recreation departments, and school districts by waiving the permit indemnification requirement for entities that are prohibited from providing indemnification under state law.  

The Congressman’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for including both the AIR Safety Act and the SOAR Act in today’s markup and unanimous consent package.

In my state alone, we’ve experienced nearly 550 wildfire starts this year. When these fires grow, our firefighters need to have every tool available to protect life and property – and too often private citizen drone usage will interfere and stop aerial suppression by flying near an active fire.

My AIR Safety Act will take a closer look at these drone incursions and ways that we can remove interfering drones and deter incursions in the first place.

I would like to thank Congressman Huffman for co-leading this effort with me and look forward to reviewing the results of this legislation once passed into law.

Additionally, as the Republican sponsor of the SOAR Act, I am happy to see this bill moving and with such broad and bipartisan support for recreation.

The SOAR Act will streamline recreation permitting and make our public lands more accessible to all Americans. I’d like to thank Congresswoman Haaland for her work with me on the SOAR Act, and appreciate her commitment to work on good bipartisan legislation.

I yield back the remainder of my time.”

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Curtis: Utahns Need Access to Child Care, Not Additional Red Tape

Curtis: Utahns Need Access to Child Care, Not Additional Red Tape

July 31,  2020

Washington, DC — Representative John Curtis (R-UT), released the following statement advocating for H.R. 7778, the Expanding Child Care Access Grants Act, which would provide funds for businesses to establish child-care programs or partner with existing providers to offer child care for their employees. The Congressman does not support the two child care bills on the House floor today due to their reckless spending of taxpayer dollars and the creation of new regulations while child care providers are already facing burdensome red tape.

“Access to child care is a key factor to getting Americans back to work and continuing Utah’s successful economic rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, simply throwing billions of dollars at the industry, coupled with additional regulations that will make it harder for child care facilities to open, will not fix the problem. Instead, Congress needs to focus on reducing barriers to affordable child care while being responsible with taxpayer money”, said Curtis. “To that end, I am a proud cosponsor of the Expanding Child Care Access Grants Act, which will provide grants for employers to establish child care options for their employees. Unlike the bills on the Floor today, this bill provides a targeted way for Utahns to have access to the child care they need, with a fraction of the price tag.”

Background

H.R. 7778 – The Expanding Child Care Access Grants Act

  • This bill provides grants for businesses to establish child-care programs for their employees or partner with existing providers to offer child care services.
  • Funds would go from HHS to states and then would be sub-granted to businesses.
    Time-limited in response to COVID so that any unused funds would be returned to the Treasury in a year.
  • States would be required to obligate 80 percent of funding within six months.
  • Authorizes $1B, and achieves the same goal as the Democrat’s bills, but with a much lower price tag.

House Republicans have introduced numerous bills to address the needs of families and providers and worked on a bipartisan basis to include $3.5 billion in much-needed support in the CARES Act. Instead of pursuing bipartisan solutions, House Democrats have decided to take a partisan approach that recklessly spends taxpayer dollars and adds burdensome new mandates that will drive up costs substantially, tie many providers’ hands unnecessarily, and limit available slots for parents returning to work. Representative Curtis will be voting against the following two bills on the House floor today:

Child Care is Essential Act

  • Appropriates $50 billion, which is higher than the entire annual revenue of the child care industry, and substantially more than was included in HEROES.
  • Denies support for certain eligible providers, such as churches and public recreation camps, who are license-exempt and operating legally in a state that meet all state and local requirements.
  • Fails to address the barriers to entry new providers face, an issue that can increase cost and limit slots for children.
  • Does not include protections to ensure eligibility for all providers, potentially closing the door on those who don’t already receive taxpayer funds.

Child Care for Economic Recovery Act

  • CBO estimates on-budget effects of this bill to be more than $165 billion over 10 years, including a substantial increase in mandatory spending, which is out of proportion for the immediate needs related to the ongoing pandemic.
  • Includes an increase in child-care entitlement funds to states from $2.9 billion to $10 billion per year over five years, even though many states have not utilized the additional funding for child care that was provided in the CARES Act.
  • Fails to protect taxpayer dollars by excluding safeguards on the refundability of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, such as taxpayer or child social security numbers.
  • Expands the CARES Act Employee Retention Tax Credit to cover wages paid not only to nannies and other caretakers, but to butlers, maids, and gardeners, and on a retroactive basis.

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Curtis, Welch Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Assess Impact of COVID-19 Telehealth Policies

Curtis, Welch Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Assess Impact of COVID-19 Telehealth Policies

July 25,  2020

Washington, DC — Representatives John Curtis (R-UT), Peter Welch (D-VT), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to study the impacts of telehealth during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE). The legislation requires the US Department of Health and Human Services to assess key health care metrics, including utilization rates and hospital readmission rates, for patients who received their health care through expanded telehealth programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate companion bill will be introduced this week by Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Shelly Moore-Capito (R-WV).

“Telehealth is undoubtedly the future of health care, especially for the rural communities that I am privileged to represent,” said Curtis. “Ultimately, Congress’ objective should be to make many – if not at all – of these regulatory changes permanent. Our bill is a significant step in that direction because it will ensure we are keeping patients’ health and reducing the costs of care through value-based medicine as our top priorities as we consider expanding telehealth services throughout the country.”

“This unprecedented pandemic has proven that telehealth not only works, but that it’s essential,” said Welch. “I have no doubt that this study will confirm what rural and underserved patients across the country already know: these emergency telehealth provisions should be continued. This is a commonsense step to make sure our policies keep pace with our technology.”

Statement of Support

Nathan Baugh, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association of Rural Health Clinics:

“As rural health clinics adopt telehealth services to care for their patients during the pandemic, it is important for us to understand both the magnitude and effectiveness of telehealth in rural, underserved settings as we deliberate further changes to telehealth policy.”

Ray Timothy, UETN Executive Director, Utah Telehealth and Education Network:

“The Utah Education and Telehealth Network is in support of this bill, which requires the secretary of HHS to collect and analyze data on the impact of telehealth services, virtual check-ins, digital health, and remote patient monitoring technologies on health care delivery permitted by current waivers and modifications of requirements during COVID-19. Many of the current waivers have had a profound impact on the way health care is delivered, in rural and underserved areas in particular, and this bill will help to determine what changes to keep in place after the end of the PHE.”

Neil Leibowitz,  Chief Medical Officer, Talkspace:

“For many, the stress and anxiety inflicted by COVID was relieved thanks to mental health counseling provided via text, video chat, and audio messaging. By seeking data on the impact and effectiveness of Telebehavioral Health, Congressmen Welch (D-VT) and Curtis (R-UT) will spur on better analysis, fresh insights, and quite possibly new treatments. We hope the bill leads to laws and rules that make it easier for Americans to connect with professional therapists.  Real world evidence will make clear that telemedicine is an invaluable way for mental health care to be delivered and consumed.”

Background

Regulatory action taken by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak in the US gave millions of Americans access to vital health care services with the touch of a button. The 1135 Blanket Waivers issued by CMS in March 2020 permit health care providers to treat patients virtually – either by phone (audio-only) or through teleconferencing – and across state lines, which is a practice that regulators previously prohibited.

These increased flexibilities resulted in a 50% increase in telehealth visits among public payers in March alone and more than an 8,000% increase in telehealth visits to date as a result of similar actions taken by commercial insurers. The bipartisan legislation introduced today will help policymakers evaluate the effectiveness of these changes, specifically if they kept patients healthier and happier, providers more satisfied, and reduced the overall costs of care.

 

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