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Cortez Masto Prepares Guide For Those Touched By Coronavirus

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(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

U. S. Sen.Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, speaks at the 23rd Annual Lake Tahoe Summit, Tuesday, at South Lake Tahoe, Calif., Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto represents a state where its biggest industry — hospitality — has shut down in the face of the coronavirus.

Almost twice as many people have applied for unemployment in the last month than in all of 2019, and the Brookings Institution says Las Vegas stands to be hurt more financially than any other big city.

Coronavirus: What You Need To Know

For people whose lives have been upset by COVID-19 and the economic fallout, Cortez Masto has prepared a 60-page resource guide with information on available health and financial assistance.

The senator said the guide will help people access the relief efforts passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, including the billions that were part of the $2 trillion aid package passed in March.

"In that $2 trillion, the focus was really on how do we ensure that our workers and our businesses stay liquid and have money in their pockets, along with ensuring that our hospitals and our state and local governments have the funding they need as well," she said. 

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Included in that legislation is direct payments to the American people. Cortez Masto said what she understands from the Treasury Department is those checks will start coming as early as April 13 for those who have filed their tax returns for 2018 and 2019.

However, people who haven't set up direct deposit for tax refunds will get checks a little later.

Congress is currently working on a fourth relief package but today Senate Democrats rejected a Trump administration request for an additional $250 billion in help for small businesses. While Republicans refused Democrats request for $250 billion in funding for hospitals and local governments.

Cortez Masto defended her party's move. 

She said the senators want to remove some of the barriers to getting small business loans, which she said have held up the Paycheck Protection Program funds.

Under the current rules, small businesses get the loan money through banks and credit unions but unless a business has a relationship with a bank or credit union it's not able to get the money easily.

"What we are asking for now is to make changes so we can open up more of that funding, but I think more funding needs to occur," she said. 

She doesn't believe the money allocated to small businesses is enough but she would also like help for hospitals and local governments who are struggling under the strain of the coronavirus outbreak.

The senator believes there is still an opportunity to get a fourth relief package passed in Congress.

"I think there is still an opportunity to negotiate this and I'm hopeful that the leaders in Washington that are negotiating this come to an agreement," she said, "We still have time. There is still enough money in the small business pot that we have allocated - the $250 billion - we haven't gone through all of that yet. There is still time to get this money out there, but we have to work together."

Another change to the small business loan rules that Cortez Masto and the rest of the Nevada Congressional Delegation are working on is one that doesn't allow businesses that get more than a third of their revenue from gaming to access forgivable loans through the Small Business Administration.

She said Nevada leaders are working to change that.

"We don't think that any gaming entity should be treated unfairly and that includes tribal gaming as well," she said.

With all of the money coming out of federal coffers, the national debt is skyrocketing. Cortez Masto told KNPR's State of Nevada that she is concerned about that and concerned about oversight of the relief dollars.

However, she noted that her priority right now is getting money to people who need it and resources to health care workers on the front line of the pandemic.

"My goal is the make sure this money comes into our state, comes into the pockets of workers, and make sure our businesses are liquid, so that when we can open our doors again, our economy springs back that much faster," she said, "Right now, my focus is making sure folks have access to the funds know how to access it and we tear down the barriers to get to those funds."

Guests

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Democrat, published coronavirus resource guide 

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