Exclusive conference call provides Wyoming small-business owners with the latest news from Congress
“We just can’t allow that to be the next epidemic.”
So said Wyoming U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, not about another virus, but about a potential disease of a different sort.
“Our business owners are the mom-and-pop shops of Wyoming [and] should not find themselves in fear of a coronavirus lawsuit. Everybody who gets coronavirus cannot necessarily find somebody to blame for it, even though trial lawyers are going to want to do that.”
On a May 5 conference call arranged by NFIB exclusively for its Wyoming members, Senator Barrasso said, “We need liability protection. The trial lawyers seem to be having a field day. If you look at some of their ads,” which the senator imitated, “anyone who has coronavirus—call now!”
NFIB has been hosting conference calls with governors and senators around the nation to help its members make sense of all that has happened, especially with the Paycheck Protection Program loans.
“I was a long-time member of NFIB when I was practicing medicine with Casper Orthopedics,” the senator began the call with, and 40-minutes later ended it by saying how grateful he is for the work NFIB does for the people of Wyoming. In between he offered the following observations and comments to members’ questions.
Businesses with no Payroll
Senator Barrasso admitted businesses with no payroll were “overlooked” in giving them the opportunity to apply for loans, because everything had to move quickly to avoid the economy completely shutting down. He said Congress will look to correct this in subsequent legislation.
Pays Better to Stay Unemployed
The $600 per week provision contained in the CARES was a necessity of compromise, said the senator. He didn’t support it, but he reminded the caller worried about finding employees because of the incentive not to want work that the provision expires at the end of July.
Extending PPP Loans for a few Months
Senator Barrasso said Congress is working on making them more flexible.
Why the Small Business Administration?
To get federal money out to business owners in every state, the senator informed callers, the SBA was chosen because it has offices in every state and local relationships with banks. “They processed more loans in 14 days than they had in 14 years. We’re happy to see that it worked as it did, and it’s been a big success.”
What About the National Debt?
An NFIB member from Cheyenne asked about what the coronavirus relief package was doing to the national debt. The senator responded that the real culprit is still entitlements. “We’ve added 25 years of life expectancy because of antibiotics, better hygiene … cancer treatments. When Lyndon Johnson put Medicare into place, which is a wonderful program, it’s helped so many people, he said it was for widows because by 65 all men were going to be dead, and Lyndon Johnson died at age 64.”
Senator Barrasso noted that there are 11,000 adults turning 65 every day. “I’m one of those baby boomers, and I have done it now, as has my wife. My mom is still alive … that has been driving our debt before the coronavirus ever hit.”
Country of Origin Labelling
The senator acknowledged the gravity of the issue and the divisions within it. “Our No. 1 cash crop is beef, over $1 billion a year. Sixty percent of our agriculture is beef, so it’s a big deal.” The senator said he and others have asked the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to look into charges of price-fixing and market manipulation, and report back if “there is something fishy going on. The sheep industry is having a similar problem with lamb and the same thing with pricing and packers.”
Click the arrow below to listen to the conference call with Senator Barrasso.