U.S. Representative Jim Baird (R-Ind. 4th District) is continuing to work with the committees he’s on while Congress shut down during the pandemic. He said he has an average of two conference calls a day, sometimes three or four. It’s not the usual way these discussions occur but they’re getting used to it, just like so many Americans across the country. Washington DC lifts its shelter in place order on May 15 and Congress is looking at ways the assembly can return in a safe way.
Baird said they do have bills to work on.
As for Indiana, he said he likes the governor’s plan to reopen the state in stages ad by region. “It’s nice to have the coordination with other states,” he said. “We’ve lowered the curve significantly. We need to continue social distancing and hand washing.”
Recently, Congress passed another PPP (Payroll Protection Program), for $300 billion. Of that amount, $75 billion will go to rural hospitals as many of them depend on elective surgical procedures and without those, they are struggling. Also, this round, he said they made sure a portion of the funds goes to smaller businesses in smaller loans averaging $50,000. “I have to compliment the community banks and smaller banks for getting the loans out. I’m proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish,” he said. $2 billion is going to Small Business Aassociation qualified lenders.
There are three Main Street lending programs that support small businesses, he said. Each of the three programs has its own set of regulations.
The FDA has a program that will allow fresh produce, meats and vegetables to reach non-profit food banks and food pantries. There is also a coronavirus food assistance program offered through the USDA. “Farmers will go to great lengths to get these products to market,” he said.
“I’m proud of our agricultural people who have a common sense and practical approach to problems.”
“We’ve never been through this kind of thing before. The pandemic has revealed some of our real strengths and illustrated some of our challenges,” he said.
He would like to see changes to bring pharmaceutical production back to the U.S. China, he said, has 80 to 90% of the API (Active Pharmaceutical Industry). He said it’s not so much the Chinese people as it is the Chinese Communist Party where the responsibility lies.
“I think we’ll see some real changes in bringing manufacturing back to the U.S, and taking a look at our health care and what China has control of,” he said.
As a member of the Science, Space and Technology committee, he said they have had discussions about this and other manufacturing. There are 17 national labs that do basic research across the country, and they are looking for alternatives for the rare earth metals that China controls and solving pharmaceutical problems. He has “great confidence” that the labs will come up with the research to accomplish this and bring back manufacturing to our country.
If someone cannot find the resources they need, Baird said his office is available to hunt those things down.