U.S. Sen. James Lankford spoke Sept. 3 with Mustang and Yukon residents about the CARES Act, mail-in voting, coronavirus vaccines and more at Mustang’s Town Center.
There has not been a COVID-19 bill since April because there already has been $3 trillion put into the economy for pandemic relief, Lankford said.
Of the $3 trillion, $1 trillion has not yet been used.
“Typically, all appropriated spending for all of the government for a year is $1 trillion,” said Lankford. “That doesn’t include things like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. That’s a separate amount.”
The $1 trillion for a year covers departments like defense, education, and Housing and Urban Development.
“A lot of the conversation now is, what is unspent in that first allocation, what could we reprogram to say, if it was unspent — instead of adding more spending again on top of that when (the remaining trillion) is not even out the door — did that go to the right place,” Lankford said.
He said the CARES Act legislation was written in about 10 days. Most bills take months to finish.
Parts of the legislation was sectioned out to lawmakers. Lankford’s portion related to the paycheck protection program, which is a $350 billion program that provided small businesses money for eight weeks through federal loans.
Any small business, nonprofit and faith-based organization could benefit from the protection, Lankford said.
Businesses that received more than $150,000 must show how the money was used and the amounts for each area to close the loan.
The loan could only be used for payroll, utilities and rent, he said.
There will be audits for businesses who have received $2 billion.
Lankford said they want to keep people honest.
He advised people to wait until the first part of October to go through the process if they can, as it may be simplified more by that time.
The senator also discussed taking a more targeted approach regarding COVID-19, now that the government knows more about the virus than it did in March.
For instance, while many industries struggled because of the pandemic, some, like grocery chains succeeded.
An example of a struggling industry that Lankford used related to charter buses to determine what will need to be done for bus companies in 2021.
“How do we let them just get through, is that loans, is that some grants, what’s a mix of that to be able to not make people whole, but to be able to get people through, because every dollar that’s spent is a tax dollar,” Lankford said.
Additionally, some city government officials are worried about what this fall will hold, despite most cities’ revenue being up because more people are shopping online.
Mustang’s sales tax was up $108,866.03 and Yukon’s was up $130,836.12 last month when compared to the previous August.
Lankford said $1.5 billion has been allocated to city and county governments. Some have not received their funds yet.
Much of this money is spent on personal protective equipment for communities, as well as paying local law enforcement’s salaries, he said.
Lankford anticipates there will be another round of relief coming this month.
One person inquired about fraud regarding voting by mail.
Mailed out ballots are different than absentee because they are not requested, they are sent to all registered voters in some areas.
“The problem with just the mail-out ballots is, how many ballots are mailed to people with addresses that that person is not there?” Lankford said.
It is a felony to vote more than once in any election.
In regard to an attendee’s question about evictions, Lankford said there was no excuse for people to not pay their rent because of the $600 and $1,200 stimulus checks people received.
From listening to some manufacturing companies, Lankford said he’s heard some people won’t return to work until their unemployment benefits run out because they’re making more than they were at their job.
Regarding COVID-19 vaccines, Lankford said there are three being reviewed.
He said the first vaccine should be ready by the end of this year.
It’s in the final human trials, where it will then be challenged and evaluated by statistics and competitors for safety and effectiveness.
There are 56 days in each of the three phases.
Thirty thousand people are included in the trial; 20,000 get the vaccine and 10,000 receive a placebo.
“They literally send them out without a mask on into the population to find out who gets COVID-19 and who doesn’t,” Lankford said.
Participants will be monitored by experts and asked to periodically provide blood samples throughout their trial, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Volunteers 18 and older may participate in the trial.
Upon completion, the vaccines will not be mandated, rather available for those who want it.