Keller speaks on stimulus bill ‘no’ vote

U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Kreamer, told local leaders Monday he’s happy the latest COVID-19 relief bill will provide help to the many small businesses and families hurt by the pandemic.

However, he made it clear he could not support the legislation because it included provisions that in the long run can hurt the economy.

“I ultimately voted against it because it spends well beyond our means,” he said. “We needed to do things to get through COVID-19. Our national debt is over $27 trillion. We needed to concentrate on COVID and not all these other things.”

Among his main concerns with the $2.3 trillion funding relief package, he said, include payouts for unemployment, which he feels discourage the jobless to go back to work.

“Our debt will be paid by our children and grandchildren,” he said.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 was passed by both Houses in December.

In addition to $9 billion in COVID stimulus relief, it provides $1.4 trillion in omnibus spending for 2021 and prevents a government shutdown.

Keller said he fought to include in the bill many provisions that will indeed help businesses and people in need.

Funding for entrepreneurs, farmers, and infrastructure are positive aspects of the legislation.

Keeping in good repair the nation’s roads and bridges are vital to the nation as is expanding broadband to more areas, according to Keller.

He said the pandemic has shown just how important it is to bring broadband service to more people.

He credited the bill for helping with the purchase and distribution of COVID vaccines, expanding coronavirus testing, and extending support to rural hospitals.

He conceded that there have existed problems so far in vaccine distribution. He pointed to Florida as a state that seems to be doing it right.

He said there was a general feeling within the federal government that the states could do a better job of distribution.

In response to one question, Keller said he was unsure if stimulus checks going out to people will be taxed.

“That was not the intent of the legislation,” he said.

Keller was asked what can be done to ensure the Williamsport Regional Airport continues to have commercial flight service.

“We now have American Airlines but it’s not a long-term commitment,” Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce President Jason Fink told Keller. “We fear American will leave again.”

“Our team will follow up to see what we can do to make it more of a commitment,” Keller said.

American Airlines resumed flight service to Philadelphia Jan 5 but has not committed to continuing the service beyond March.

Keller noted that the relief bill includes funding for various transportation services, including airports.

A notable aspect of the legislation is the authorization of $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program.

The loans to small businesses will cover additional expenses, including operations, property damage costs, supplier costs, and worker protection expenses.

PPP borrowers can begin to apply for the loans.

Keller said with many businesses and people and businesses struggling, this is not the time to raise taxes.

Tax cuts, he noted, can spur economic activity.