The fate of thousands of American Airlines and Southwest Airlines employees, the resumption of unemployment benefits to millions of jobless workers, and fallout from a truncated decennial census were all fodder for discussion during the Dallas Regional Chamber’s 2020 Congressional Forum.
Congressional representatives Colin Allred, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Van Taylor, and Marc Veasey gathered virtually on Sept. 2 to take part in a panel discussion moderated by WFAA-TV’s Jason Whitely, who kicked off the session with a question on many minds: Will legislators be able to pass a new stimulus package soon?
“I’m actually part of the bipartisan working group, which is trying to create a framework to show that Republicans and Democrats can come to an agreement, and I think there is a deal can be had,” said Taylor. “And more importantly, it needs to happen. We’ve got a lot of people out there hurting. A lot of businesses that need attention.”
Johnson said that while compromise is important in obtaining another round of funding, it’s most important to deliver paycheck relief to frontline workers and to fund a vaccination and its distribution. And the clock is ticking.
“The longer it takes us to negotiate this, the more critical it becomes,” she said.
Allred said he’s fighting to preserve 40,000 jobs at risk at Fort Worth-based American Airlines and additional jobs at Dallas-based Southwest Airlines. He’s advocating for the Senate to pass a second $25 billion in funding infusion to prop up the aviation industry.
“If we can’t save our aviation industry, we’ll be especially impacted,” he said, adding that it must be passed by the end of September to avoid job cuts. Allred said it’s also important for the federal government to support county and local governments, so they can continue to provide essential services, such as public safety and schools.
Veasey noted that it’s important to resume the $600 unemployment payouts to bolster households and the economy.
“We can’t lower that amount,” he said. “We have to continue aid to small businesses. These checks help the economy for now. When we come out from the other side of this, we want to have as many businesses up and running as possible. The startup time for a new small business – for it to open, or for it to reopen – is going to take too long. We’re going to push the recovery back.”
All the congressional representatives agreed that the effort to collect the 2020 Census shouldn’t be cut short – which is currently the plan – and that a census undercount could be especially costly to Texas, from the vantage points of both federal funding and political representation.
Taylor estimated an undercount in the 2010 Census cost Texas about $20 billion in federal funding.
Watch the DRC 2020 Congressional Forum:
A version of this story first appeared on the Dallas Regional Chamber site. Dallas Innovates is a collaboration of D Magazine Partners and the Dallas Regional Chamber. This Q&A is part of an ongoing series of DRC interviews with representatives from our member organizations about how they are facing the COVID-19 pandemic.