Grassley: Second aid package likely
Congress will probably pass a second relief package to deal with the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley predicted Monday. He said the size and scope of the legislation has yet to be determined.
“I really believe that there is going to be a second one,” the Republican, who is Iowa’s senior senator, said during a webinar conducted by the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.
Congress has already approved a $2 trillion relief plan called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. President Donald Trump signed it into law on March 27.
How much money is included in any upcoming relief bill will depend on how the economy is doing, according to Grassley.
The senator said he believes any future relief bill will include money to compensate state and local governments for revenue they have lost during the pandemic.
The CARES Act included a $300 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which was intended to help small businesses keep their workers employed during the downturn. Grassley said there is $150 billion left in that program, and he wants to determine how the first $150 billion was spent before making changes.
In an unrelated matter, Grassley said ethanol producers are in a stronger position following a recent ruling by a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has already given out too many waivers allowing oil refineries to avoid complying with the Renewable Fuels Standard. That standard requires a certain amount of ethanol to be blended with gasoline.
The waivers, the senator said, are to be used only for “extreme hardship” situations.
Grassley said he expects a lasting demand for ethanol.
“As long as we have cars, as long as we have dirty air, global warming and all that stuff, we’re going to have demand for ethanol,” he said. “I don’t think that all cars will be electric.”
He repeated his support for a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced federal budget. But he added that it doesn’t look like such an amendment will be acted upon unless citizens press Congress for it.
“It’s going to take something from the grassroots to get Congress to move in this direction,” he said.
He said there has not been any recent action on a bridges and highways bill.
“The pandemic is taking all of the oxygen out of Washington,” he said.