U.S. Congressman Tom Cole | E-Newsletter
WEEKLY UPDATE | April 29, 2020 Click here if you have trouble viewing this email
U.S. Congressman Tom Cole
Over the last several weeks, the spread of COVID-19 has caused unthinkable disruptions to life as usual, and it will continue to do so for some time, even as we “flatten the curve.” Following the unprecedented strain on our health care systems and the devastating economic hits to hardworking Americans as a direct result of this coronavirus, the desire for normalcy to return is certainly a sentiment shared by us all. But as state and local economies slowly and cautiously begin to reopen, it is important to remember that getting back to business does not yet mean getting back to normal. 

Even though the fight against COVID-19 is far from over, keeping businesses closed and workers at home is not a sustainable option for the long-term. While the federal government has provided some short-term relief to help individuals, households, businesses and communities stay afloat during this period of extreme social distancing, our economies need to get moving again and Americans need to get back to work. However, any such efforts to reopen must continue to keep the health and safety of Americans at top of mind and not undo previous progress in slowing the spread of this coronavirus. This will indeed be a balancing act. For until there are working treatments, effective therapeutics and ultimately a vaccine to control COVID-19, the risk and danger of the disease remains.

It is critically important that the federal government learns from this crisis and actively prepares to face down another pandemic in the future. While I am proud that Congress has generously invested in worthy tools and response resources to strengthen our readiness in recent years, it must be an even higher priority in the days to come. Though the United States was prepared to face a public health challenge, you can never be fully prepared for what you don’t know is coming – in this case, a mysterious and deadly virus originating in China, only identified early this year and for which a vaccine does not yet exist.   

 
  
Cautiously Reopening America in Phases
Returning to more regular functions and operations requires gradual action, completed in phases and based on data. President Donald Trump recently recommended criteria for states and communities to achieve before moving into phases of reopening. This includes experiencing a consistent downward trend in reported symptoms, consistent downward trend in documented cases or positive tests as well as hospitals being able to treat all patients without crisis care and with robust testing in place for at-risk healthcare workers.

While the president has provided a helpful reopening blueprint that contains three phases, states are not strictly bound to it. Indeed, just as there are 50 separate and unique states, there may well be 50 different approaches to reopening that carry the same spirit of caution and decision-making based on sound data. However, the idea behind three phases is to gradually allow businesses and workplaces to open back up, but not immediately at full speed ahead nor without adaptations to prevent crowded environments. In the earliest phases, this may include limiting the number of employees inside places of work, continuing telework practices, vulnerable and older Americans remaining at home or limiting the number of customers inside retail stores and restaurants. 

Regardless of the phase of reopening in our communities, we should not abandon practical and hygienic precautions like thoroughly and frequently washing your hands, not touching your face, daily disinfecting surfaces, keeping a safe distance from others and staying home when you’re sick. For the latest guidance from the President’s Coronavirus Task Force and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), visit coronavirus.gov. And for health and prevention updates provided locally by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, visit coronavirus.health.ok.gov.

Saving American Jobs
While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruptions felt across the whole of society, small businesses have undoubtedly taken some of the hardest, fastest and most damaging economic hits. As the lifeblood of our nation’s economy, small businesses support millions and millions of American jobs. 

The fact that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) ran dry less than two weeks after rollout demonstrates just how dire the circumstances are for small businesses. Before all of the first available funding was obligated on April 16, more than 35,500 Oklahoma businesses had already borrowed roughly $4.6 billion from the program to retain the jobs of tens of thousands of Oklahomans.

In response, I am very glad that Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which replenished funding for the PPP and provided additional funding for hospitals, health care providers and testing. 

Refilling the PPP could not come soon enough for small businesses. It is certainly in our collective interest to help sustain these vital job creators that are facing hard times by no fault of their own. Indeed, action should have taken place as soon as we saw the warning signs. Unfortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer chose to make a bad crisis even worse, using the dried-up program as leverage for additional demands. As a result, they wasted precious days that many small businesses don’t have the luxury of weathering – likely causing jobs and businesses to be lost or leaving them hanging on by a thread.


Supporting Rural Hospitals
Last week, the Small Business Administration issued some good news by clarifying that publicly-owned rural hospitals will be eligible to receive Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans and other financial assistance first provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

As we combat the COVID-19 pandemic in our communities, I am grateful that the Trump Administration has expanded eligibility, allowing a broader range of rural hospitals to receive certain aid and thus strengthening our state’s capacity for treating patients. As the top Republican leader of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Health and Human Services, I have been working closely with the Trump Administration to ensure rural hospitals receive the extra assistance they need during this unprecedented crisis. This move by the Department of the Treasury will alleviate many of the financial pressures these hospitals are experiencing. In the days ahead, I will continue to work hard to ensure that rural hospitals in Oklahoma are taken care of.

Stay Informed 
While social distancing prevents us all from interacting in person, there are several ways I am aiming to keep you informed. I am regularly filming video updates for social media, hosting telephone town halls and participating in virtual meetings reaching Fourth District communities. In addition, I am keeping my website up to date on the latest federal actions taken and resources available in response to the disruptions caused by the spread of this coronavirus. You can also call my office at (405) 329-6500.

If you have additional questions or need assistance with another matter, my staff can help you with that, too. 


Sincerely,
Tom Cole
Member of Congress



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JOIN A TELEPHONE TOWN HALL
As I've done during the last several weeks, I will be hosting more telephone town halls in the coming days. If you would like to participate in a future conversation, please stay tuned for dates and dial-in information or sign up to be called HERE. 
 
ACTION NEEDED
If you are an SSI or VA beneficiary with qualifying dependents and are not normally required to file a tax return, your action is needed to ensure you receive the full benefits of the economic impact payment for which you are eligible.

Please carefully review the information provided by the IRS HERE and take action by Tuesday, May 5, 2020

  
NEW DEADLINE
The annual Congressional Art Competition for high school students is still taking place, and my office is accepting entries. Please note that the deadline for entries has been extended to Friday, May 22, 2020.

While all three of my district offices remain drop-off points for submitting artwork, please provide advance notice and schedule time to ensure a member of my staff is there to assist you at a safe distance. The Ardmore Chamber of Commerce remains open and continues to serve as a drop-off point as well; simply knock on the door, and someone should be able to assist you.
 

To schedule a drop-off time and place, please call my office: (405) 329-6500

  
OK-04 GIVING BACK
Lawton Constitution: Teen making masks for those in need
Greatly inspired to learn how individuals across the Fourth District are lending their talents to help their communities overcome COVID-19. For 16-year-old Angeline Hartline of Lawton, that means using her sewing skills to produce masks for those in need.
Read more

  
OK-04 RESOURCES
I will regularly be updating my website with new information and resources here: cole.house.gov/coronavirus 
 
MEDIA CENTER 
Click around below to read more
Cole Joins Bipartisan, Bicameral Call to Establish 9-8-8 Suicide Hotline in Next COVID-19 Relief Package
(April 27, 2020)


Cole, Haaland Applaud Tribal Eligibility for Paycheck Protection Program
(April 24, 2020)

Speaker Pelosi Creates Partisan Coronavirus Oversight Committee
(April 23, 2020)

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