Washington, D.C.—On Monday morning, during a taped, 20-minute interview with Mark Thompson, the host of the popular podcast “Make It Plain,” Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), the Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), praised the Congressional response to the coronavirus recession, including recent improvements to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to ensure that small businesses most in need of relief get it.
“I think Congress so far has acted pretty quickly and pretty well to help,” Beyer told Thompson. “We need to do a lot more.”
“We realized in that first big tranche of money we were sending to small businesses that bigger small businesses, the ones with 100, 200 employees, were getting all the money,” Beyer said about PPP. “And [now] we’re trying to get it to the [small businesses] that most need it that may not have the great banking relationship and the expensive lawyer.”
Since the interview was taped just a day after weekend protests across the nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer, Congressman Beyer also talked with Thompson about his thoughts on the incident—praising peaceful protesters who are reacting with “all the fury that we should.”
“It was so unnecessary,” Congressman Beyer said about the killing of George Floyd, “and it wasn’t accidental—it was murder.”
The full interview was released today and can be listened to here. Below are additional excerpts from the interview, some of which have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Congressional Response to Coronavirus
Thompson (Host): You mentioned the economy, Congressman Beyer, and the peril in which it’s in. Massive unemployment and then businesses thinking about reopening, some businesses will never come back. Give us in your words the state of the economy now and the potential state going forward. What can be done? What options can we have? How can there be a rebuilding, even knowing that this thing might come back? I mean, how do you even plan?
Beyer: Well, I think Congress so far has acted pretty quickly and pretty well to help. We have 40 million people unemployed. It wasn’t this long slow recession, we just shut down all these businesses overnight and threw people out of work. But we have the Paycheck Protection Program which has put like $700 billion into small businesses, we’ve extended unemployment insurance for a record number of people, we’ve sent the individual checks to families—$1200 per person.
And the Democratic House—led by Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Jim Clyburn—we passed the CARES Act two-and-a-half weeks ago which does a lot more: $6,000 more per family, keeps unemployment insurance into 2021, does a lot of really good things. They’ve got to get through Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump’s got to sign it and that’s not sure.
But, Mark, the big things that concern me most, and I have this wonderful economist on the Joint Economic Committee, Kyle Moore, who put this together and he did a whole study on the impact of the coronavirus on the working people of America and on people of color. No surprise, if you are black or brown there’s a much greater likelihood of getting sick, much greater likelihood you’ll die, and a much greater likelihood that you lost your job.
Thompson (Host): Yeah, no, that’s real. And obviously Congress has passed legislation that has been helpful and, I guess the plan is as this goes forward to even do more legislation, correct?
Beyer: Yep, we need to do a lot more. One of the things that we can celebrate is the CARES Amendment Act that came a couple weeks later. We realized in that first big tranche of money we were sending to small businesses that bigger small businesses, the ones with 100, 200 employees, were getting all the money and the barber shops and the little construction firms and the grocery stores, like with 10 and less, 20 and less, they weren’t getting almost any of it. So we dedicated the first $75 billion just to small businesses with 10 or less. And we’re trying to get it to the people that most need it that may not have the great banking relationship and the expensive lawyer.
Thompson (Host): Top of mind for most of us, and I’m sure top of mind for you, is what’s been going on in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. First of all, Congressman, what was your reaction when you first heard that news and saw that video?
Beyer: I was just heartbroken, Mark. It was so unnecessary, and it wasn’t accidental—it was murder. You know, the poor guy’s there pleading for his life, for his breathing, and once again over something as trivial as a possibly counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes. You know, this is just the kind of thing where if he actually had done something wrong, give him a ticket for $50, make him appear in court in 90 days.
This was just insane and it’s on top of so many other things. Thank goodness that we have smartphones so that we see what’s happening again and again with Christian Cooper, with Ahmaud Arbery, you know. But I think we can’t be naive, this has been going on for hundreds of years for people in the African-American community in America and so much of it has been covered up, swept under the rug. Now at least we’re being able to document it and react with all the fury that we should.
About Congressman Beyer
Congressman Beyer is currently serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital. In addition to his role as Vice Chair of the JEC, Beyer serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Previously, Beyer served as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to Switzerland and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.