Sen. Mitt Romney to visit Silicon Slopes Headquarters 01

Sen. Mitt Romney discusses Utah politics and current affairs with the press at the Silicon Slopes headquarters in Lehi, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. (Photo by Johnny Morris, special to the Daily Herald)

As state lawmakers and officials in Utah work to find solutions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 amid a pandemic, Utah’s senators and representatives at the federal level are doing the same.

On Monday, Republican United States Senator Mitt Romney proposed a relief package that includes immediately sending $1,000 checks to every American adult “to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy,” according to a press release.

Providing such immediate monetary relief is not unprecedented, the press release said, noting that Congress provided similar emergency funds during the 2001 and 2008 recessions.

The U.S. House passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” on Saturday, which includes expanding funding for food security programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), increasing emergency family and sick leave requirements for employers and requiring free coronavirus testing from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers, CBS News reported.

“The House coronavirus response package contains critical measures to help families in Utah and across the nation in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, and the Senate should act swiftly on this legislation,” Romney said in the press release. “We also urgently need to build on this legislation with additional action to help families and small businesses meet their short-term financial obligations, ease the financial burden on students entering the workforce, and protect health workers on the front lines by improving telehealth services.”

In addition to calling for $1,000 checks for all American adults, Romney proposed that the U.S. Small Business Administration provide bridge grants to businesses that apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans but do not receive them.

The Republican senator also said the federal government should temporarily defer the payment of student loans and require private insurance companies to temporarily cover telehealth services.

On Friday, Romney, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, introduced a bill to address shortages of medical supplies in the country due to a reliance on pharmaceuticals manufactured overseas.

The bill would direct the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to assess the country’s dependence on medical devices, equipment and medication imported from countries like China and India, according to a press release.

In a joint statement with Romney in response to travel restrictions implemented by President Donald Trump, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, recommended that all U.S. residents abroad register with the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) “which allows the government to contact them directly with the latest information on travel to the United States.”

After voting yes on the House’s emergency relief funding bill on Saturday, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, expressed support for the measure.

“Although there are parts that I do not fully agree with, I was glad to vote for a compromise for the ultimate benefit of the American people,” Curtis said in a written statement. “Congress should send a clear message that a public health crisis is not to be dealt with only along party lines.”

Also on Saturday, Utah’s only Democratic elected federal official, Rep. Ben McAdams, announced adjustments to his West Jordan and Washington, D.C. offices, including that his staff will temporarily stop holding in-person meetings.

“The health and safety of our community is my top priority,” McAdams said in a statement. “We will continue serving Utah in a virtual capacity and my office phone numbers remain operational.”

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!