Congressman Comer Talks Economy, Regulations And Oversight During Chamber Update
Kentucky 1st District Congressman James Comer spent the majority of his time with Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce members Thursday discussing the economy and the impact of the pandemic on small businesses, but he began with an expression of sympathy for the community and families impacted by the shooting in Murray earlier this week.
“I want to start off today by thanking the Murray State campus police and the Murray city police for their expedient response to the shooting in Murray earlier this week,” he said. “I also want to express my sincere condolences to the family who lost loved ones in that terrible event and hope that everyone knows that my thoughts and prayers are with the family and with the community.”
Comer also briefly discussed his role as ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and said the committee’s focus is trying to prevent waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement of tax dollars. He said the “massive debt and out-of-control spending in Washington” will leave the committee with no shortage of issues to consider.
“I think the Oversight Committee is going to be extremely busy into the future trying to identify misappropriated funds, abuse, mismanagement, waste, and hopefully we can make a difference, but certainly we can't continue to spend,” he added.
Comer said he voted against the most recent $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package (American Rescue Plan Act) because he was concerned about inflation, which he said is already happening. He said it’s happening with commodities, with groceries and with gas, and in his opinion the result of too much stimulus. He said for perspective, $4 trillion is so much even the federal government can’t find ways to spend it, noting there’s still $1 trillion unspent.
“I'm starting to see signs of inflation and I don't think that printing additional money is going to solve a lot of the problems,” he said. “I think the biggest thing we can do to help the economy is reopen the economy.”
Comer said a positive in the latest stimulus package is measures which will allow more small businesses access to the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program). He said some were left out in the previous package, and his office is willing to assist businesses with the application process.
Comer also said community banks are among the “unsung heroes” in the pandemic.
“You've been on the front lines of preventing a huge pandemic from devastating our economy because so many businesses have had to go to the banks for the PPP loan programs. And it's just been a stressful, uncertain time for bankers, but our community bankers in Kentucky have really stepped up,” he said.
Comer said another positive related to the pandemic relief package is the funding headed for local communities to assist with costs related to economic recovery and infrastructure, or fill holes in budgets where needed. He said his office estimates Calloway County will receive $7.5 million.
“My friend [Judge-Executive] Kenny Imes is fixing to have Christmas in April,” he said.
Comer pointed toward Florida, where he said he’s had many meetings recently because COVID-19 restrictions are lighter, and said its economy is booming because “they really never missed a beat.” Meanwhile, he said Kentucky’s businesses have “had their hands tied behind their backs.” He said the chambers of commerce need to use their voices to help businesses “reopen the economy.”
“I'm fine with wearing a mask and social distancing and all that, but we’ve got to reopen our economy, and I think that's a message that all the chambers should be beating the drum to all across the state right now. With the vaccines, there's really no excuse not to reopen the economy fully, completely, safely, and certainly have in-person school.”
Comer noted the families in his district should be recipients of $1,400, or more, in stimulus funding. He said his brother in Monroe County has received $10,000 between the last two stimulus packages, which “is a lot of stimulus for an average family in Kentucky.” He said he hopes Kentuckians will make an effort to stimulate their local economies with those funds.
“There's a lot of money that's being printed in Washington right now and it's gonna hit. I hope that the businesses in the Murray chamber can take advantage of that,” he said. “I hope all the money's not spent on televisions made in China. I hope that we buy locally, that would be a good thing for the economy.”
Comer said he’s also proud of the bipartisan measure which passed this week, the stronger child abuse prevention and treatment act which aims to strengthen federal efforts to recognize, prevent, and treat child abuse and neglect nationwide. He also noted the Oversight Committee is working to identify which regulations normally placed on the private sector that were eased during the pandemic could remain inactive to “get rid of the undue burdensome regulations.” And broadband internet access is another focal point he briefly mentioned, noting the pandemic has significantly highlighted the need for better access.