Politicians playing games with lives and COVID aid

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 1/5/21

What in the world was President Trump thinking when he decided to play games with the bi-partisan combination of a COVID-19 virus relief package and the time-sensitive federal spending bill? …

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Politicians playing games with lives and COVID aid

Posted

What in the world was President Trump thinking when he decided to play games with the bi-partisan combination of a COVID-19 virus relief package and the time-sensitive federal spending bill?

Trump’s threat over the Christmas holiday to not sign the two critical pieces of legislation caught - everyone including his own party and White House staff - flat-footed. What were the communications between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Trump during the negotiations with Congressional leaders of both houses and both parties?

Certainly, it was assumed that the President was supportive of what Mnuchin was saying and doing. Why didn’t Trump speak up DURING the negotiations on his desire to jump to $2,000 per person, reduce foreign aid and drop some of the pork that is so prevalent? With each day he delayed signing the relief bill, he was playing impactful games with peoples’ lives.

Each day of delay has caused more financial stress

First, we had the two Congressional Houses dragging their feet on another timely virus relief package. Then as everyone was puffing out their chests and saying the federal assistance was overdue to the American people, we have the President throw a wrench in the works.

The additional days that he delayed in signing the relief legislation has had a real impact on Americans. People saw their unemployment benefits expire. Their next month’s rent or mortgage payment were staring them in the face. Furthermore, with each day that a delayed decision on the President’s part meant further delay before individuals and families would receive their relief checks. The COVID-19 virus has had such a huge negative impact on the economy and ensuing unemployment that many families are too broke and are reliant on food banks to put food on the their tables. Also, with unemployment benefits expiring, it made it all the more time sensitive to get the checks and benefits in people’s hands.

The politics of $600 versus $2,000 relief payments

Politically speaking, the question becomes what impact President Trump’s antics will have on his future popularity as well as the impact on the Republican Party.

On one hand was the delay he caused, but on the other hand is his demand that a $2,000 per person relief check be sent instead of Congress’ $600 amount. While the U.S. House has now approved the $2,000 amounts, the U.S. Senate, via Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, has sidestepped the higher payments at least for the time being and is likely to play cagey in getting the higher relief checks rejected in the Senate.

While there is the segment of the public who would totally support the higher amount, there are those of us who worry about the federal debt. The additional $1,400 per person would add a whooping $300 billion to the existing staggering debt. I do believe Congress got out of control with pork projects and programs that are not related to COVID virus relief. I think the President had a valid point but take a look and decide for yourselves.

Pork barrel projects called “virus relief”

Here is just a smidgen of the outlandish items which will be funded now that the President has signed the legislation: Remember, these expenditures are a part of the virus relief package, so ask yourselves how each expenditure relates to the virus.

There is $25 million for cleaning supplies for the Capitol Building, $95 million for the Agency of International Development, $720 million to Social Security Administration - with $200 million of it for people with the balance for “administrative costs”.

There is $25 million for transit infrastructure, $315 million for State Department Diplomatic programs, $100 million to NASA and $500 million for museums and libraries. There are about 30 additional large expenditures in the legislation that don’t seem to relate to virus relief.

Where does adams county stand in pursuing “5 star” status?

You are probably aware that Colorado’s COVID-19 virus statistics have improved considerable in the last two weeks. All of the critical categories are showing meaningful improvement. Some counties which are currently under the Red designation on the wheel have successfully pursued the enhanced “5 Star” designation which in particular allows restaurants and bars to open to the 25% capacity level. Summit County and Larimer County restaurants are currently open thanks to achieving this designation. Arapahoe and Jefferson County are currently awaiting the decision on their respective applications. So, where is Adams County in “the hunt” on this important improvement status to assist restaurants and bars to be eligible to re-open?

Improving metrics are promising

While Adams County has the least favorable metrics of the Tri-County Health Department’s member counties, its improvement over the past two weeks warrants planning ahead and taking the initiative in getting local businesses ready to open again.

As of December 28, Adams County’s two week Cumulative Incident Rate per 100,000 population was 614.42 cases, a 28% DECLINE in cases. Adams County’s 14 day test positivity rate of 9.65% remains considerably above Arapahoe County (6.48%) and Douglas County (6.56%) and well above the 5% rate target before a county can begin loosening the restrictions, according to the state.

Why not jump start restaurant openings?

Adams County and its municipalities would do well to take the initiative to provide CARES funds or other funds to “jump start” restaurants and bars in preparing to seek the “5 Star” designation.

In particular, funds could be provided to assist in upgrading the ventilation, a key requirement under this designation. The seating has to be 10 feet apart; not 6 feet. Customer tracking and regular temperature reading of staff are also mandated.

The point here is to not wait until the state would allow the “5 Star” 25% seating opportunity but to get a jump on the situation and hopefully save some restaurants in so doing.

Historic Westminster brew pub on hold

Remember the fanfare with the City of Westminster heavily subsidizing a proposed brew pub in Historic Westminster on 73rd Avenue?

Well, I checked recently on the status of the project. You will recall that the city had committed approximately $900,000 to rehab the former Rodeo Supermarket building. That amount does not include the purchase of the property several years ago.

This past summer, in conjunction with the council discussions on the 2021 budget, it came out that an additional $400,000 was needed. Increased costs from prior estimates had come up for HVAC and electrical work plus staff had not previously included utility tap fees.

The city council decided NOT to add the $400,000 in the 2021 City Budget. According to city staff, the Olde Westminster Pub and Tavern is currently “on hold” due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

So, if you were looking forward to having a “cold one” at this location in the coming months, you best look elsewhere.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at bcjayhawk68@gmail.com.

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