Working hard on COVID-19 relief for small businesses, homeowners

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Rep. Cindy Axne represents Iowa's Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She can be reached at 202-225-5476.

Rural businesses in Iowa have faced just as many challenges and financial burdens during the COVID-19 pandemic as their counterparts in urban areas.

So it’s only fair that we extend to those businesses, which form the backbone of our Main Streets across southwest Iowa, the same provisions as everyone else in order to sustain them through the economic downturn the pandemic has brought.

Last March my colleagues and I passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included six months of payments for borrowers with existing Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.

The same relief was not given to borrowers with loans through the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development programs.

I’ve crafted bipartisan legislation that would fix that – the Rural Equal Aid Act – so rural business owners have the same opportunities to keep their doors open even if they have a USDA loan instead of an SBA one.

I have also been working hard to make sure everyone in central and southwest can keep a roof over their heads in these difficult times.

The House Financial Services Committee voted to include two of my housing priorities in the COVID-19 relief package that’s making its way through Congress. The legislation includes $35 billion in assistance for America’s renters and homeowners.

Surviving this pandemic and dealing with its economic fallout is impossible without a roof over your head. This money would provide support for rural renters and for housing counselors whose advice could make the difference for Iowa families trying to make ends meet.

No one understands how hard it can be to make those ends meet like the thousands of hard-working Iowans who have had to file for unemployment throughout the last year.

Many of those folks received additional $600 weekly payments from the federal government. What they may not have known at the time is all that money is taxable.

That’s why I’ve written the Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits Tax Relief Act, which would waive federal income taxes on the first $10,200 of unemployment benefit received in 2020.

My bill would ensure workers don’t face an unexpected tax bill that could put them into further economic peril when they file their taxes this April.

The bottom line is this: the only way everyone can truly be protected from this pandemic is by getting vaccinated. That’s why I’ve written bipartisan letters with Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska to expand COVID-19 vaccinations to veteran caregivers and with Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson to improve vaccination rates in rural areas.

Iowa’s vaccine supply has been steadily increasing since the beginning of this year. More than 62,000 doses of vaccine are expected to arrive in Iowa the week of Feb. 22, which is a 24% jump in the number of vaccines delivered the week before.

While we look forward to the day we’re all vaccinated, this pandemic has highlighted the importance of having access to quality, affordable health insurance.

President Joe Biden has opened up a special enrollment period on the HealthCare.Gov health care marketplace. Iowans who lost their insurance due to the pandemic or who otherwise need better insurance should visit the online marketplace to see their options. The special enrollment period will be open through May 15.

I urge Iowans to take advantage of this special enrollment period and get insured. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to have safety nets in place for the unpredictable months and years ahead.

There is still so much work to be done to get us on the other side of this crisis. I’m working every single day to deliver solutions that will protect Iowa families and support them as we get our communities back on their feet. If there are issues that you are facing that you need help with, contact me and let me know how I can help.

Rep. Cindy Axne represents Iowa’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She can be reached at 202-225-5476.

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