|As I shared in my previous update, I am committed to ensuring a fast and effective response to the novel coronavirus pandemic — one that takes the pressure off our families and business owners, cuts red tape, and lays the foundation for a strong recovery.
There was a lot of ground to cover in that newsletter, so I wanted to follow up by highlighting a few pieces from the week where I went even more in-depth on my proposals as we face this challenge together.
I also wanted to be sure you knew about two bills I introduced on Saturday.
My first bill would ensure our seniors know they can keep the money they have spent a lifetime saving so they have more to put toward their needs. It does this through eliminating current law forcing them, starting in their early 70s, to withdraw a required minimum from retirement plans such as 401(k)s, certain tax-advantaged IRAs, and traditional IRAs each year.
Right now, if they don’t take out the correct amount, they face a 50% tax on the difference! It’s time for this requirement to go! This reform would also mean they would not be forced to sell when the value of their investments has dropped.
My second bill helps back up our efforts to keep each other safe and healthy. Our existing system mandates that firms regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) conduct internal inspections of offices, including private residences where business is conducted, to ensure compliance with laws and regulations.
With so many more Americans currently working from home, and considering the uncertainty we’re wrestling with, my bill would indefinitely prevent the inspections from applying to private homes, protecting both the families in those homes and the inspectors who would travel to each one.
I urge the Senate to pass these common-sense measures!
“Paul Pushes Different Approach to Pandemic”
On Friday, I spoke to my hometown Bowling Green Daily News about my response efforts and perspective on what has happened so far.
Here’s a short excerpt from their article on our interview:
As for the federal government’s response to the pandemic, he said the U.S. is “under-testing” potential virus carriers.
He is pushing a measure to ease federal restrictions on testing, allowing for more facilities to run tests.
“We have to be faster on this,” he said.
You can read the rest HERE!
“Dr. Rand Paul’s Prescription for Combating the Coronavirus Crisis”
In an op-ed for The Hill on Friday, I gave my “prescription” for “aggressive but prudent actions” we can take in this pandemic.
I first laid out the philosophy behind the ideas I am putting forward, saying, “As a physician, we learn early and take an oath to ‘do no harm.'” These short-term proposals are not an overreaction or a misdirection.
This is in contrast to Congress, where, I observed, the special interests are “fighting to lard up the response with their pet projects, from tax breaks to pet social issues.”
We simply have to avoid this temptation, and our economy cannot sustain $1-2 trillion in new spending in the next few months. “We must look to be more precise with our actions,” I added.
I went on in the piece to discuss the reforms contained in my COVID-19 Recovery Act.
First, I am advocating for a payroll tax holiday for both business owners and workers. This will be “a huge boost to everyone’s paycheck and to our overall economy,” I said, adding, “It would let people keep over $200 billion of their OWN money over the next two months.” And this holiday would start right away!
Next, I noted that “I want to ensure businesses are not forced into bankruptcy or closure due to new mandates, while also seeking to guarantee that every person who needs assistance is able to receive it.”
We can do this by shifting the burden to government and “expanding the unemployment system to cover the most severely affected and offer immediate leave for those who need it due to the coronavirus.” And my bill would widen eligibility to include self-employed Americans!
“No one should have to worry about large tax payments right now,” I said in introducing the section on the next proposal I have championed. To help Americans keep more of their own money longer, I publicly called for a 90-day extension to file federal income taxes, without fees or penalties. On Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced this would be the administration’s policy! My plan would put this extension into law, and it would, as I describe in my op-ed (and just as the administration is doing), also cover businesses “so they could focus on staying open or reopening, not on tax filing and payments.”
Finally, I talked about an idea that will help Americans who are worried about covering their bills and paying off debt during this crisis. “From mortgages to car payments, from small business loans to large lines of credit for business operations, anything we can do to buy time is helpful here,” I said before mentioning that “I want to offer a tax credit of up to 3 percent of their corporate tax rate for lenders who postpone payment requirements for 60 days.”
I noted in closing that I am continuing to work with the administration and leaders in medicine and economics on even more ways to help Americans, and I made this call to action:
These are big ideas. They are bold, broad agenda items that will help those struggling, but without bailouts, without questionable long-term social policy changes, and without a trillion-dollar price tag. We should work together on these and other similar plans to slash regulations, return money to those who need it, help those who are struggling, and win both the battle against this pandemic, and also the battle to save our economy.
I also urged readers to guard their liberties and their wallets, both of which government tends to attack in a crisis.
You can read my entire Hill op-ed HERE.
“Together, We Will Weather This Crisis”
“It is important to approach the current Coronavirus pandemic with equal measures of prudence and hope,” I said in an op-ed for the Richmond Register on Tuesday.
“Practical solutions to stop the spread of a novel disease are not new. They have worked in the past,” I continued, “and they do not need to lead to fear or panic. In fact, looking at our history of fighting and winning against so many diseases should give us optimism.”
After reviewing some practical tips that can help us all stay healthy (and encouraging young people to pay special attention to how they can affect others even if they’re not showing any symptoms), I took a look back at the history I mentioned at the beginning to share my hope for the future.
“One hundred years ago, 1 in 5 children didn’t even survive childhood due to viruses and bacteria,” I said, adding, “Our life span was shorter. The list of viruses and bacteria that could kill you was long and dangerous. The world was a much more dangerous place than it is right now.
“From Cholera to Polio, from Small Pox to Measles, we beat them, with antibiotics, antivirals and vaccines,” I noted, going on to say that “[h]istory tells us we can do it again.”
You can read this op-ed HERE.
“VITAL Act Would Remove Red Tape from Labs Creating Diagnostic Tests”
In another op-ed this week, which you can read in the Nelson County Gazette HERE, I talked about my efforts to make tests widely and quickly available in an emergency.
My Verified Innovative Testing in American Laboratories (VITAL) Act would get the roadblocks out of the way that slowed down the tests for the novel coronavirus.
We lost precious weeks as laboratories dealt with a web of bureaucracy trying to get their own tests approved after there were problems with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) initial test kit.
“When we face a health emergency, government should trust community, academic, and public health labs to do what they are already trained and certified to do,” I made clear. “With all of the debates about how government should respond,” I continued, “perhaps it ought to consider this Kentucky physician’s prescription: remove the counterproductive, bureaucratic roadblocks that are standing in the way of our medical professionals and limiting access to diagnostic testing, medical care, and necessary equipment.”
I gave a specific example of the damage I mentioned above, saying, “Just ask Dr. Alex Greninger, a Washington state lab expert and epidemiologist who has been mired in bureaucratic delays trying to get his coronavirus diagnostic test approved.”
As I described, “On February 28, he and other laboratorians sent a letter to Congress explaining that clinical labs across the country had working tests ready to use, but all their work was for naught because the test developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was the only one the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would authorize.”
“Generally,” I specified in the op-ed, “lab-developed testing procedures (LDPs), which are developed, validated, and performed inside the same laboratory, are regulated under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA). With the January public health emergency declaration in place, however, government initially required all tests for the Novel Coronavirus to obtain an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA before they could be used on patients.”
While the FDA has since loosened its restrictions, my bill creates a legislative fix “that allows laboratories to follow the CLIA process even during public emergencies, helping to prevent wasting so much time and money again.”
While I am glad a version of this reform, as of this writing, is being included in Congress’ next “phase” of response, my legislation would still help bring lasting change to the system.
I also talked in the op-ed about my support for the Health Care Workforce Protection Act of 2020, which extends limited liability protections to encourage more manufacturers to produce protective masks for our medical professionals.
Although I opposed the overall “Phase 2” response bill due to the mandates and new debt it puts on Americans at a critical time, I was pleased to at least see the Health Care Workforce Protection Act’s important reform included.
But there is still more good we can do on that front.
As I mentioned in my earlier newsletter, I have also joined Senator Joni Ernst (Iowa) on an effort to eliminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, which has seen a massive decrease in popularity among taxpayers and presidential candidates over the years, and use its over $350 million balance to purchase more masks and other personal protective equipment.
Our medical professionals and others on the frontlines of this fight are making great sacrifices for us, and I will continue working hard to make sure they know we are supporting them!
For More Information on the Novel Coronavirus
You can visit my website, www.paul.senate.gov, for links to federal and state pandemic resources. Kentuckians can also call our state’s COVID-19 Hotline at 1-800-722-5725.
Have an Issue or Concern?
If you are a Kentucky resident and need assistance with a federal agency, please feel free to contact my Bowling Green office at 270-782-8303. One of my staff members will be more than happy to assist you.
Stay in Touch with Dr. Paul
You can stay up to date on my latest news and activities by visiting my Senate website, www.paul.senate.gov, or my official Facebook and Twitter pages. You can watch my Senate floor speeches and press interviews at my YouTube channel HERE, and you can sign up to be notified about my telephone townhall events HERE.