U.S. Rep. John Carter: America is strong and we will recover
Originally appeared in the Round Rock Leader on July 7, 2020
When this year began, our economy was on fire. The Lone Star State had closed out a strong 2019 with Texans opening 224,099 new businesses, and we were the number one job creator in the nation.
The country was doing better. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by Republicans, meant people had more money in their pocket to put food on the table, pay for their kids’ dance lessons, or take a vacation. There were plenty of jobs, businesses were thriving, and people felt secure enough to invest and spend.
When this year started, America was sitting at a healthy 3.5% unemployment rate. That number held steady until February, and then coronavirus made its way to the United States from China.
When COVID-19 made its way to America, the Center for Disease Control made it a point to convey that the best methods to contain it were to practice good hygiene, social distancing, and stay at home if you’re sick. Unfortunately, the virus continued to spread.
When spread began within communities, local jurisdictions and some state entities across the country took more extreme actions; they shut down the economy.
It was certainly not an easy decision for local and state leaders to make, but it was important that these decisions were not made at the federal level, because every community is facing a different set of challenges.
When these shutdowns occurred, restaurants, retailers and small businesses across these jurisdictions shuttered if they weren’t deemed essential, and that meant many millions of Americans did not have an income.
That’s why Congress quickly developed the Paycheck Protection Program. This program, instituted in late March, gave businesses forgivable loans that could pay for payroll, utility and business expenses to keep employees paid and business afloat during shelter-in-place orders.
Since the program started, over 4.8 million companies across the country have utilized it. More than $520 billion went to these businesses by the end of June and the average loan amount was $107,199. This data shows us that PPP was going directly to who it was intended for: small businesses. That meant Americans were able to keep their jobs, continue to be paid, and companies could make ends meet during stay home orders. In fact, the program has been so successful, Congress just extended the deadline to apply from June 30 to Aug. 8.
In addition, Congress quickly acted to authorize stimulus checks to over 85% of Americans. These checks were able to give Americans a little extra cushion as they stayed safe at home.
These actions by Congress helped Americans weather the initial storm COVID-19 caused and we are starting to see some positive news of recovery on the horizon.
The latest June jobs report was a sign of that good news. Last month, America added 4.8 million jobs, beating economists’ expectations, and the unemployment rate fell. The month prior, 2.7 million jobs were created.
These are great signs that America’s economy is stirring back to life after shelter-in-place orders. It’s important that as part of reopening we balance safety and promoting economic activity. It’s a balance we all play a role in, so do your part to follow CDC guidelines, while supporting local businesses.
The last few months have been tough for Americans. I’ve talked to many of you either during telephone town halls or virtual meetings, and I have heard your stories, but I see movement in the right direction.
We will get through this tumultuous time. We will beat this virus and we will return to the strongest economy we’ve had in decades if we continue to promote commonsense, conservative economic principles that focus on the American people. Our nation is strong, but people are stronger. Stay healthy, stay safe, and we will recover.
Rep. Carter represents Texas District 31, which includes Fort Hood, the largest active duty armored military installation in the free world. He serves as co-chairman of the Congressional Army Caucus and Ranking Member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Appropriations. Prior to his service in the United States House, John Carter was judge of the 277th District Court in Williamson County for 20 years.