Lucas’ Priorities Included in COVID Relief, Federal Funding Package
Mike Seals - December 23, 2020 11:28 am
Cheyenne, OK – Earlier this week, Congress passed H.R. 133- the Consolidated Appropriations Act, providing coronavirus relief and federal appropriations until September 30, 2021. The bipartisan, bicameral package included a number of important priorities supported by Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03), benefiting individuals, families, workers, and businesses across Oklahoma.
Key priorities included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act include:
The coronavirus pandemic led to significant disruptions and temporarily reduced meat production, leading to challenges in the meat supply chain for both producers and consumers. In July, Congressman Lucas introduced the RAMP-UP Act with Congressman Collin Peterson (MN-07), to establish a grant program to help small meat processors make improvements necessary to meet federal food safety standards and bolster the meat supply chain.
Included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act is an amended version of the RAMP-UP Act, establishing a $60 million grant program for small meat and poultry processors to upgrade operations in order to move to federal inspection or a state inspection program that allows for the sale of produces across state lines. Grants may be used for modernizing or expanding facilities, modernizing equipment, and implementing other processes to ensure food safety.
PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM STREAMLINED FORGIVENESS:
In March, Congressman Lucas supported the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which created the Paycheck Protection Program. In July, Lucas introduced the Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act, which would expedite the forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program loans of $150,000 or less.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act creates a simplified Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness application for loans under $150,000 whereby the borrower signs and submits a one-page certification that requires the borrower to list the loan amount, the number of employees retained, and the estimated total amount of the loan spent on payroll costs.
CFAP PAYMENT FOR CATTLE PRODUCERS:
The coronavirus pandemic negatively impacted Oklahoma’s agriculture producers, including Oklahoma’s cattlemen and women. In May, USDA announced the details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which created significant disparities for cattle producers, particularly those who sold their animals after April 15.
Lucas, following USDA’s announcement, penned a letter urging USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to allow cattle producers that sold cattle after April 15, 2020 to be made eligible for CFAP payments for sales. Included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act is a provision that provides an inventory top-up payment to cattle producers to address a portion of the gap in support provided by both CFAP 1 and CFAP 2 to producers who sold cattle before April 15 and those who sold cattle after April 15.
During the 116th Congress, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has been focused on providing competitive and innovative clean energy solutions driven by basic and early-stage research. Ranking Member Lucas has led a number of efforts to provide innovative clean energy solutions driven by basic research, including introducing and/or cosponsoring the Advanced Geothermal Research and Development Act, which authorizes enhanced early-stage geothermal research programs at the U.S. Department of Energy; the American Critical Mineral Exploration and Innovation Act, which reduces America’s dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals; the ARPA-E Reauthorization Act, which responsibly invests in the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program to support the discovery and development of next generation clean energy technologies; the Department of Energy’s Veterans’ Health Initiative Act, which establishes U.S. Department of Energy research programs leveraging AI and high-performance computing to develop tools that solve the big-data challenges in providing effective healthcare to our Nation’s veterans; the Launching Energy Advancement and Development through Innovations for Natural Gas Act, which funds research into more efficient and cleaner uses of fossil fuels, adding to a comprehensive approach to clean energy advancement that keeps prices low for American families and businesses; the Research and Water Research Integration Act, which directs the U.S. Department of Energy to create strategic plan that energy and energy efficiency technologies to minimize freshwater withdrawal and consumption, seismic impacts, and deleterious impacts on water bodies, groundwater, and waterways; increase water use efficiency; and utilize nontraditional water sources; and the Securing American Leadership in Science and Technology Act, which creates a long-term strategy for investment in basic research and infrastructure to protect the economic and national security of the United States.
Included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act is the Energy Act of 2020, which includes more than a dozen bills from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and a number of Ranking Member Lucas’ priorities. The Energy Act of 2020 advances fundamental research and development activities in support of grid modernization, critical mineral security, and high-risk, high-reward next-generation energy technologies. It also takes an all-of-the-above approach to clean energy that not only considers a wide range of renewable energy sources, but also essential technologies like advanced nuclear, energy storage, carbon capture, and research into cleaner and more efficient use of fossil fuels.
PAYROLL SUPPORT PROGRAM:
Established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Payroll Support Program provided funding to support the nation’s aviation industry, including jobs in Oklahoma, during the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, Lucas joined his fellow House colleagues and U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford in penning letters urging the importance of extending the Payroll Support Program.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act provides a $15 billion extension of the Payroll Support Program, supporting employees of passenger air carriers. The Act also provides $1 billion in grants to employees of airline contractors.
SAVE OUR STAGES ACT:
The coronavirus pandemic impacted a number of businesses and industries across Oklahoma, including local entertainment venues. In August, Congressman Lucas signed on as a cosponsor to the Save Our Stages Act, which would create a grant program within the U.S. Small Business Administration to aid independent, local entertainment venues impacted by restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act is the establishment of a U.S. Small Business Administration $15 billion grant program for eligible venues, theaters, museums, and zoos.
PROVIDER RELIEF FUND:
Established to support American families, workers, and the heroic healthcare providers in the battle against COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Provider Relief Fund has provided more than $1.1 billion to Oklahoma healthcare providers. Lucas supports HHS’ efforts through the Provider Relief Fund, having recently written a letter with the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation advocating the importance of the Fund to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act provides an additional $3 billion for the Provider Relief Fund, further providing critical funds for hospitals and healthcare providers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS:
Community Health Centers serve over 29 million patients in all 50 states across nearly 12,000 medically underserved rural and urban communities. During coronavirus pandemic, Community Health Centers provided essential care to rural communities across Oklahoma. In March, Lucas led a letter to Labor-HHS Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro and Ranking Member Tom Cole urging the House Committee on Appropriations to provide robust funding to the Health Center Program at the Health and Resources Services Administration, which provides funding to Community Health Centers.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act reauthorized the Health Center Fund for an additional three years and provided $1.7 billion in funding for Community Health Centers.
RURAL COMMUNITY HOSPITAL DEMONSTRATION PROGRAM:
Authorized by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Program allows hospitals to receive higher inpatient reimbursements from Medicare, which is critical to keep rural hospitals serving patients. Of 28 hospitals that participate in the Program nationwide, Great Plains Regional Medical Center in Elk City, Oklahoma is the only hospital in Oklahoma that is enrolled in the Program.
Included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act is language similar to that of the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Extension Act, Lucas being a cosponsor, which extends the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Program for five years. The extension of the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Program ensures that the Great Plains Regional Medical Center has the flexibility it needs to serve rural communities in Oklahoma.
FEDERAL PELL GRANTS:
The Pell Grant is the largest federal grant program offered to undergraduates and is designed to assist students from low-income households. In June, Lucas cosponsored the REAL Act, which would expand educational opportunities for incarcerated students and strengthen successful reentry efforts.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act included a provision from the REAL Act, restoring access to Pell Grants for incarcerated students, providing a significant step to reform prison education programs.