LIMA — With President Donald Trump slated for an appearance in Ohio Thursday, Rep. Jim Jordan has spent the last week touring Ohio’s 4th Congressional District and meeting with constituents before heading to Clyde and later Cleveland to attend the president’s scheduled events.
Since Jordan’s last visit to Allen County on March 5, plenty has occurred on the national scene, including a worldwide pandemic, an economic downturn and mass protests.
“It’s been a busy time, but it’s sort of been that way. Aside from those initial few weeks when the lockdown happened in March, April, it’s sort of been that way for a year and a half,” Jordan said.
Recently, high-profile committee appearances have made headlines for the Ohio congressman, and he said that his office often works to ensure he makes the most of the five minutes allotted to each committee member for questions.
“For me, it’s important how you ask the question and the sequence you ask the questions. The first question you ask is many times, not always, but many times is the most important. Anticipating if they’re going to give you a ‘yes,’ going to give you ‘no.’ Or they’re going to answer this way or they’re gonna answer that way, and then knowing how you’re going to respond,” Jordan said. “We only get five minutes. You want to make it effective, and you’re trying to communicate. You’re also trying to gather information. So we take that very seriously, because I think it’s an important part of your job as a representative. So much of the work you do in Washington is in committees. So we always take that seriously.”
For example, during Jordan’s questioning of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, the representative used his time to highlight what he called unequal treatment of first amendment rights — primarily those of peaceful assembly and religious establishment.
“I think I think a lot of constituents and a lot of Americans are troubled by the fact that government can restrict some of your personal liberties but won’t restrict any others. We should treat them all the same,” he said.
Jordan has also been looking at ongoing Congressional deliberations concerning a much-discussed second stimulus package, currently known as the HEALS Act. In what will be another landmark bill for Congress, Jordan has a number of concerns for the expected legislation.
The first is the size of the bill. Democratic representatives have pushed for expanded federal spending — up to $3 trillion — to restart the economy, but Jordan would rather see additional flexibility for CARES Act dollars already allocated, especially for local governments to help them get through budgetary problems. The congressman said recent talks with Fostoria’s city government proved that a “V-shaped” economic recovery is in the works as its budgets look to be on somewhat stable ground.
“(Pelosi) is talking about a trillion dollars more for state and local governments. And I think she’s doing that because she wants to bail out cities in New York, California, Illinois, who had all kinds of problems prior to the virus,” Jordan said.
Meanwhile, a number of Ohio’s mayors have called for expanded federal intervention to help their cities. Since municipal governments rely heavily on income tax as a revenue source, Ohio cities have a unique challenge in dealing with the expected shortfalls. Jordan said more flexibility in spending CARES Act dollars should help in that regard.
As for the City of Lima, the local government received roughly $1.2 million in CARES Act funds, and Mayor David Berger said the city is currently expecting a $2 to $3 million setback due to lowered tax revenues across the board. If the economic recovery is slower than Jordan’s V-shaped expectations, the size of the shortfall could grow and layoffs could be in the future.
Economic indicators have been somewhat mixed. Latest numbers from the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimate that the second quarter saw a record-breaking annual rate contraction in GDP of 32.9%, which tracks GDP change if the second quarter economy was extended through year’s end. GDP contraction when compared between the first and second quarters, however, stands at 9.5%.
Locally, Allen County’s unemployment rate for June sits at 11%, but the number of jobless claims have started to level off over the last few weeks. According to the latest numbers spanning the week of July 19 through July 25, Ohioans filed 27,937 initial jobless claims.
Jordan said the best path forward is to get more people back to work, and he’s relying on American ingenuity to make it happen even as the pandemic continues.
“Americans know how to adapt and respond and innovate. We’re seeing it already. So yeah, I think we can,“ Jordan said.
Through the HEALS Act, he’s looking at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s liability protections for businesses and reduced federal unemployment benefits as ways to ensure that employees are pressured to return to work.
If such provisions will be included in the final aid package, however, remains to be seen.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.