SPRINGFIELD — When the United States claws its way out of the economic collapse associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, “it will look much more like the Great Depression than the Great Recession,” Congressman Peter DeFazio said Monday afternoon during a virtual town hall streamed online from his Springfield office.
“We will need jobs and infrastructure improvements that create millions of jobs in construction,” DeFazio said. “But there will also be jobs created in design, engineering and manufacturing.”
And jobs can be multiplied if the United States imposes a “Buy America” mentality by no longer buying equipment from countries like China.
We should start producing our own medications and personal protective equipment, DeFazio said.
“If we move our national transportation system away from fossil fuels to electrification, that will create millions of jobs and reduce our fossil fuels emissions,” DeFazio added.
DeFazio said he has always opposed free trade deals, because they ultimately lead to fewer jobs for American citizens. He opposed Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Agreement, George Bush’s Central America Free Trade Agreement and Barack Obama’s TransPacific Partnership.
DeFazio said an influx of money into the U.S. Postal Service is an important part of a national recovery.
He said that is true especially now, when prescriptions for veterans and seniors are delivered by the Postal Service.
Long term, he hopes to infuse $12 billion into the system to purchase a new fleet of electric postal delivery vehicles. He said the current fleet is old and expensive to maintain.
DeFazio said President Trump has not supported ways to shore up the Postal Service because he is against a national vote-by-mail system, which DeFazio strongly supports.
DeFazio said Democrats hope to pass a $2.3 trillion federal CARES program extension that will provide another $1,200 per adult, plus money for dependent children.
“A critical element is getting help to local governments, whose revenues have tanked,” DeFazio said. “They have to be able to support their police, fire, ambulance and community health programs.”
The plan would also extend the ban on home evictions, provide $100 billion to aid hospitals and health care operations and $75 billion for COVID-19 contact tracing.
DeFazio said he was pleased the Water Resources Bill recently received approval. It will provide funds for badly needed projects nationwide such as harbor maintenance and rebuilding jetties.
DeFazio accepted calls on a wide variety of topics by telephone and online.
• Health insurance/unemployment: A caller said when someone loses his or her job, they also usually lose their health insurance coverage. Without the $600 added unemployment benefit, how can they afford to replace that insurance? DeFazio said Republicans want to reduce the federal addition to state unemployment checks to $200 from $600, because they say the $600 provides people with more net income than they were earning, thus reducing their desire to return to work. Democrats will continue to push for the $600, although a compromise is possible.
• Foreign election interference: DeFazio said although he couldn’t talk much about it due to security issues, the Cyber Defense Force is in place. “We are in a way better place this time around,” DeFazio said.
• COLAS for seniors: Seniors don’t buy lots of big screen TVs or new cars, both of which are used to calculate the national consumer price index, DeFazio said. He supports a CPIE index, which measures prices for things like pharmaceuticals and housing costs, which would provide much more accurate data about the real annual cost of living for seniors, the said.
• Portland protests/anarchists: DeFazio said that peaceful protests are an important part of the American political process. He said that unfortunately a few anarchists are spoiling the process. He said they should be dealt with, but President Trump sent in federal agents who were not trained properly for the task at hand. They were primarily border patrol agents who were used to dealing with drug dealers. They were poorly trained and improperly equipped to quell unruly crowds without escalating the issue.
• Long-awaited unemployment checks: DeFazio said Oregon received $80 million 10 years ago to update its antiquated unemployment benefits computer system and failed to do so. Now people are suffering as they wait. Oregon has added about 700 employees as it whittles down the hundreds of thousands of claims, DeFazio said. “This has been a total disaster,” DeFazio said. He said his office fields calls about the issue every day, although he has no control over state government. He urged the caller to contact their local elected officials.
• Civilian Conservation Corps: Could a new national work/training program be developed? DeFazio said he has long supported the federal Youth Conservation Corps and Youth Build programs. “I want to expand them, and there are always far more applicants than they can accept. They get their GED and they learn skills at the same time.”
In closing, DeFazio said that although it might appear we are in a “pretty dysfunctional place, this is America and we always have hope. We can and will do better.”
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