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Senators Casey, Toomey speak to stimulus deal

Both lawmakers seemed to breathe a sigh of relief that an infusion of government money may soon be released to individuals, businesses and health care providers in response to the coronavirus.

Senate passed an aid package late Wednesday.

But, given that they are on different sides of the political spectrum, it was perhaps no surprise each brought different perspectives to the recently passed $2 trillion stimulus bill.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, said even more could have been done to help people impacted by COVID-19, while noting, “Democrats put it in much better shape.”

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, said, “There were a lot of changes sprung on us by (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi and (Senate Minority Leader Charles) Schumer. Some were changes to structure. It’s a long list.”

Toomey said Democrats carried the misperception that the bill provided a slush fund for corporations.

The two senators held separate teleconferences with the media Wednesday to talk about the bill.

Toomey said, with the economy basically closed as a result of the coronavirus, many suddenly jobless people can now look forward to stimulus checks.

“Many, many workers will receive close to fully all income they lost by virtually not being able to go to work,” he said. “People have bills to pay.”

Casey said he expects people to receive their checks in a timely fashion, although he could give no precise dates. Anyone who pays taxes, he noted, should be eligible.

He said the first-time cash allotments — $1,200 for single people and $2,400 for couples — amount to more than what Republicans wanted to issue.

Toomey noted the provisions for small businesses, including loans to help them make payroll and for other needs.

“Almost all businesses qualify. Virtually every business qualifies for one of these programs,” he said. “I can’t think of any category that is left out.”

In addition, the bill includes funding to help hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers deal with the coronavirus.

“We are putting a lot of money into research to develop a (coronavirus) vaccine and for treatment,” Toomey said. “We have to kill this virus. We have to make sure hospitals can treat people.”

Casey noted that the state has more than 60 rural hospitals, many of which are struggling.

“The support for hospitals and nursing homes in rural areas will be substantial,” he said. “I would have liked to have done a lot more with Medicaid.”

But Casey said Republicans were simply not on the same page with Democrats for the government health insurance program.

Casey further took issue with the bill not sufficiently dealing with college loan payment forgiveness or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a government aid provision for those who qualify.

“We have to keep trying,” he said. “We have to make sure if someone is in need of food assistance, they can get it.”