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U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz said he believes a second round of stimulus checks will be in the next coronavirus aid package passed by Congress.


Gaetz made the prediction Wednesday morning during a Facebook livestream with Escambia County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh, saying Congress is working on a CARES Act 2.0.


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"I think people can expect another round of direct payments to individuals," Gaetz said. "You know, a lot of folks got that through their direct deposit system, and I think there is an expectation that there is additional need for that now, because even if, for example, a restaurant is able to open it 50% capacity, they're not going to hire back 100% of their employees to be at 50% capacity on day one, because they would go out of business. It wouldn't be an economically sustainable model."


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The $2.2 trillion CARES Act that passed in March mandated paid every American adult making less than $75,000 a year receive a stimulus check for $1,200 and $500 for each child in a household. Many people received a payment this month if the Internal Revenue Service had their bank account information. Others without bank account information at the IRS will have to wait on a paper check to be mailed to them, which will be going out in May in batches of 5 million checks each week for up to 20 weeks, according to the IRS.


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Gaetz added that there will probably be money as well for local governments also taking a hit from the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. However, he believes the programs should be focused only on direct impacts from COVID-19.


"I don't believe that folks in Escambia County should subsidize the non-COVID related poor economic decisions that they've made in New York and Illinois," Gaetz said. "I know we would always help our fellow Americans dealing with COVID, but we're negotiating right now, this notion of well, you know, should we really go and fill the $6 billion budget deficit that New York had before COVID as the consequences of this virus."


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Gaetz said he also expects another round of the Paycheck Protection Program with a prioritization on community banks.


The Paycheck Protection Program is beginning a second round of funding from $320 billion in funds after the program quickly ran through an initial $350 billion in funding. The program provides loans through banks to small businesses for a month of their average payroll cost as long as the money is used to toward paying workers.


The program has come under criticism after large businesses and even professional sports franchises received loans through the program.


Gaetz said he has spent a lot of time speaking with local banks and the Treasury Department trying to help them work through issues in the program.


"As a matter of fact, a day doesn't pass when I'm not on the phone with Treasury or SBA or one of our banks to get that done," Gaetz said. "And as long as the money doesn't run out, and we get it to people in time, so they don't lose their businesses, we've accomplished the goal."


Gaetz said there should be better enforcement about which businesses receive loans through the program.


"You and I know businesses that did not see $1 decrease in revenue, but applied anyway and got this money," Gaetz said. "While hoteliers and bar owners and people whose businesses got literally shut down, did not get funded, and so I think you'll see some aggressive enforcement should restore confidence in the system that the money is going where it needs to go."


Jim Little can be reached at jwlittle@pnj.com and 850-208-9827.


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