After five weeks of sheltering on his rural Iowa farm, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is glad to be back in Washington working with his colleagues face-to-face.
“If you want to call wearing face masks face-to-face,” Grassley joked on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
But oversight of the more than $3 trillion Congress has appropriated to help the nation deal with the coronavirus pandemic is no joking matter for Grassley.
“Those oversight responsibilities are getting greater and greater,” the Iowa Republican said.
That includes introducing bipartisan legislation to clarify the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program so small businesses can deduct expenses paid with a forgiven PPP loan from their taxes.
“Unfortunately, Treasury and the IRS interpreted the law in a way that’s preventing businesses from deducting expenses associated with PPP loans,” he said, which is “just the opposite of what we intended and should be fixed.”
Grassley is concerned about the level of spending he and other members of Congress have approved but said it’s too soon to know whether it will be enough or if it is too much.
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To put the spending in perspective, Grassley said, “We’re right now where we were at the end of World War II.”
“We aren’t probably going to lose our country like we would if we lost the war, but that’s how big it is,” he said.
He believes the spending is justified to address both the health costs associated with COVID-19 as well as the costs of getting the economy up and running.
While putting together the coronavirus relief packages, Grassley said his hope was that the economy would turn around in 90 days.
“And if it isn’t turned around, we may have to do more,” he said. “We’re only one month into this. I would think that we ought to wait just a little bit” before seeing about additional aid.
Congress approved $150 billion in direct aid to programs such as the Payroll Protection Program. So far, only the PPP has run out of funds.
“I’d like to wait a period of time” before deciding whether another round of coronavirus relief appropriations is necessary, he said.
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