This week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee took part in a webinar focused on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and economic policy during the coronavirus pandemic.
Rubio talked with Michael Strain from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on a number of topics, including the role of federalism in reopening the economy.
“We cannot ask Americans to continue to live under the restrictions that they’re facing right now,” Rubio said. “It would also be highly irresponsible to tell everybody to go back to the way things were in the early part of March because…given the fact that there is no cure for this disease, that would be a dangerous situation. We are now entering an era where we’re going to have to learn to deal with this virus, try to diminish and mitigate the risk that it poses — especially to the most vulnerable — even as we try to engage in some normalcy of putting kids back in school and Americans back to work. There’s no roadmap for it, no one’s ever done it before, no one can tell you they have a manual on how to do it in a country as large and diverse as this one, but it is one of those things we’re going to need to figure out and one of those things where I think federalism actually serves us quite well, because it allows those local communities the opportunity to not just influence decisions but to craft a way forward that makes sense for their state, for their county, for their city. In that sense federalism really is a benefit to us in this response.”
Rubio also praised the PPP, insisting it was the “most successful part” of the $2.3 trillion federal stimulus package approved by Congress and the White House at the end of March.
“The goal of the program was pretty straightforward, and that was to protect paychecks,” Rubio said. “We wanted to provide small businesses who did not have the liquidity to do this, to maintain as many people on payroll as possible in the midst of an economic shutdown, in many of their cases the doors were closed, in others they were only partially open. And the hope was to keep as many off the unemployment line as possible. And by some estimates, 30 to 40 million payrolls have been supported by this program. Now, some places are opening faster than others, some industries were able to utilize these funds better than others. But ultimately, I take comfort in the fact that our unemployment rate right now would be significantly higher were it not for the PPP being in place. And on that, I would say it’s been very successful and by the far the most successful part of the CARES Act.”
Rubio also weighed in on economic resiliency and diverse supply chains.
“The notion is not that we’re entirely going to have all of it here in the U.S., there are some industries frankly where we’re not going to be able to return them to the United States wholly. So then the question becomes if an industry can’t be here, then you at least want to have enough diversification in the international supply chain so that you’re not so heavily reliant on one nation for so much of it,” Rubio said.
The Florida Republican also talked about the need for dignified work, a topic that Rubio has focused on in recent months.
“How can we have industries in this country that produce different but comparable jobs that allow people to provide for their families the sort of dignified life that my parents were able to achieve without much of an education? That’s an important thing to talk about because the absence of it has political ramifications, societal ramifications, and economic ramifications…In the end, our country is more than just an economy, it’s a society. And if elements of that society begin to fall apart — because of economic conditions or some other reason — it becomes really corrosive and difficult for the country to be successful,” Rubio said.
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