Rep. Williams Agrees With Stay At Home Order
United States Congressman Roger Williams (R), who serves Texas District 25 which runs from southwest of Fort Worth to south of Hays County, spoke to the Century News about COVID-19 and the national and local response to the virus. The interview was conducted on Friday, March 27 just before the House of Representatives passed the CARES Act coronavirus stimulus package.
CN: Right now, Hays County, along with a lot of the jurisdictions within your district, is in a “Stay at Home, Work Safe” order. That means essential businesses are allowed to stay open but largely people are asked to stay home if at all possible. Do you agree with the social distancing measures being taken at this point?
Williams: I do. First of all, I am a Main Street businessman myself, as you know. So it creates a heck of a problem for Main Street and everybody. But to end this virus and slow it down we need to do what we are told, and it appears to be working. Now, it is hard to social distance. I am a salesman, and you are too. We shake people’s hands, but we need to do what we have been asked to do and it will end quicker than later.
CN: How long do you think these social distancing measures are needed?
Williams: I listen to the experts, and I know that President (Donald) Trump, as you know it, he would like to have Easter as a day to open up America. (Editor’s Note: After this interview, President Trump announced that social distancing recommendations will remain in place through April 30.) I will tell you that won’t happen unless the doctors approve it, but I love his idea of segmenting the country out in areas that do not have it as bad as others and letting them open up… In other words, maybe communities of Texas would be opened up certainly before New York or somewhere like that. We’ve got to get Main Street going again. Our economy, essentially, is good. We’ve got low interest rates. The banks have money. We just have to get small businesses to meet their payroll and not terminate their workers and get back to work. We could have a huge, huge, increase in our business once we get that going. I think it will be here sooner than later.
CN: As we speak right now, the stimulus package has not been passed and is potentially on the House floor soon. What would you tell our readers about the Small Business Administration loans and some of the best steps for local businesses to start that process to try and get some of this help.
Williams: The SBA is jumping in very much so to get help. First of all, a lot of your readers will be getting $1,200 a person, $2,400 dollars a couple from the Treasury to help pay their rent and pay their car note. Small businesses are going to be able to do some things like delay their payroll taxes through December and pay those back over the next 24 months. That will create a lot of cash flow. The SBA is going to streamline their process so the small businesses and people can borrow money to meet the needs that they have. I think that what we are setting ourselves up for, it is a $2 trillion cash infusion into the economy, but it is things like express loans. They will speed the loans up quicker, and student loans. I think a lot of those loans, a portion of them, will be delayed. There will be an opportunity for people to get money to get their feet back on the ground, but also to help these employers because the employers have to have money to be able to hire people. I think we are doing the right thing and the SBA has agreed to step up. Also the banks have been empowered by the President. Even if a bank is not in the SBA program, they can participate in guaranteed loans from the Federal government to use in their communities too, which is going to be a big deal.
CN: I know the stimulus package is not everything the Republicans want, and I know it is not everything the Democrats want. Can you talk to me about the process of compromise you are seeing?
Williams: I will tell you, there is nothing perfect, as you say. There was some compromise that was going on. Of course (Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi was famous for asking for everything that has nothing to do with the virus. I am sure you reported everything from writing debts from the post office off, to carbon emissions on airlines, to money for the Kennedy Center, to Planned Parenthood. It was just ridiculous that they would try and bring that in. The only thing that actually got in that I disagree with, well it was one of them, was funding the Kennedy Center. But it did get in, and we were able to make some trade outs. But the main thing is, I think you’ve got to look at it much like people or small businesses will. It is like an extraordinary expense, like a lawsuit or something. You have to address it, and once it is satisfied and you hopefully have profits to pay back the expense. I think this is a bit like that. This is an extraordinary event in our country. We are going to have to pay for it. When we come out of it the economy is going to be strong again, and then we will work on paying this back. I am concerned about the debt in this country, as a lot of people are, but we have no option here. We have to take care of the health of our people. We have to take care of Main Street America. And then through Capitalism, free enterprise, the most powerful asset we have as Americans, we will get this thing paid back and begin to get our economy going.
CN: There is a lot of talk about the lack of testing, Personal Protection Equipment and life saving equipment like ventilators. What are you and the Federal government doing to help the healthcare system here locally in your district?
Williams: Let me tell you, there is a lot of issue about that. In the beginning, there is no question America is under inventoried on this equipment. When we got started the CDC was a little slow to responding, and the President, being a businessperson, brought the private sector in to loosen some red tape, broke up state lines, let the private sector come on and manufacture a lot of these products that I think showed the greatness of our country. You see what is going on today, with manufacturing not even being asked, they are stepping up and stopping their lines on what their production is to build surgical gowns and masks and so forth. It reminds me of what we did in World War II. It shows the greatness of our country. We have a company in our district that called me the other day and was ready to stop their line to make tents and to begin to make surgical gowns. They have been in touch with the White House on that. Those are the kinds of things of getting equipment in the hands of the folks that need it. In Texas alone, Governor (Greg) Abbott has got drive-through facilities beginning to start. I think we are making good headway. We can do a lot more. I think we are seeing the private sector start to do that.
CN: Do you think the hospital systems within your district are going to be able to keep up with this virus locally?
Williams: I hope so, and I think so. We have been in contact with them and we continue to talk to them. Any needs they have we are going to help them with. I think that in our district we have got 240 cases right now. I think as far as I know, as I understand, we are taking care of them okay. But the hospitals know to get a hold of our office. We are fighting for our district and the needs of it. That won’t be a problem. There is plenty of energy to make things happen.
CN: Is there anything else you would like to say on the topic congressman?
Williams: We are going to come out of this better. It is a tough time for all of us now. Shutting down our country was never something we thought we would have to do. I think the President is on the right track with using Easter as the starting point to open our country back and when we do come back we will be better. So we have that to look forward to. I would also say to all your readers, we need to do what we are told. Social distancing. If you think you have been in touch with somebody that has the virus, 14 days (self-quarantine). Listen to the doctors. People are doing that. They are taking it seriously and it is working.
Congressman Roger Williams has been the U.S. Representative for Texas's 25th congressional district since 2013. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served under Governor Rick Perry as Secretary of State of Texas from November 2004 to July 1, 2007. For more information on Congressman Williams, including contact information, visit https://williams.house.gov .