BOISE — Amid an outbreak of a novel coronavirus dubbed COVID-19, members of the U.S. House of Representatives took on a significant aid package on Saturday, eventually passing a bill 363-40, providing funding for food aid, access to free testing and a lot more.
But for one of those 40 who voted against the legislation, it was the “a lot more” that created concerns.
"There's a mandate on the small businesses where they have to have at least two weeks pay regardless of the situation, and that comes out of their pocket," said Rep. Russ Fulcher, a freshman Republican from Idaho's 1st Congressional District. "First of all, government shouldn't be mandating to businesses how they pay their employees, in my view. And secondly, that's going to put some small businesses out of business."
President Donald Trump supported the legislation, which was reportedly crafted by Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. With that kind of bipartisan support, Fulcher’s Idaho counterpart in the House supported the bill.
“I fully support President Trump’s call to pass the second emergency supplemental package in response to COVID-19,” read a statement from Rep. Mike Simpson, Fulcher’s fellow Republican from Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District. “That is why I cast my vote in favor of H.R. 6021, which delivers on the urgent needs our country faces. The bill includes critical funding for testing, enhanced food security for our most vulnerable citizens, and economic stability provisions to help businesses and employees around the country. I stand ready to continue to work with my colleagues in Congress and with President Trump to help the American people through these challenging times.”
If the government wants to help employees of small businesses, Fulcher suggests avoiding a mandate of paid time and focusing on finding tax breaks for the companies, instead.
“If government's going to play a proper role here, then take that proper role and do it by providing a tax incentive,” Fulcher said. “(With a tax incentive) they're not making the decision for the small business. If you offer a payroll tax incentive for that business, then the natural thing they're going to want to do is take care of their employees. They don't want to lose their employees. But yet, they don't take a hard mandate from the government, they're getting an incentive from the government to do the right thing. I think that's a far better solution.”
6 On Your Side has contacted the offices for Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch to see if they plan to support the legislation when it arrives in the Senate. We will update the story when those updates come available.