Rouda introduces bill to help businesses reopen safely

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Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) talks to a visitor picking up groceries May 12 at the Laguna Food Pantry. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Reps. Harley Rouda (D-CA) and Brian Mast (R-FL) this week introduced the bipartisan Helping Businesses Reopen Safely Act of 2020, which would provide a tax credit of up to $25,000 annually to small businesses, local governments and non-profits to purchase personal protective equipment and other supplies needed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The legislation is aimed at keeping businesses open while protecting the public health of workers, customers and communities.

“States and local governments have given shops and restaurants the green light for reopening—but have failed to provide businesses with the resources they need to open safely,” Rouda said. “Small business owners should not be financially penalized for providing safe and clean service.”

Businesses need face coverings, goggles, face shields, respiratory protection, gloves, gowns, shields or barriers, hand sanitizers, surface cleaners or disinfectants and other equipment, according to the bill.

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, many small businesses across the nation have also been forced to close their doors for many months.

“As businesses begin the phased reopening process, we must do more to help them do so in a way that is safe for everyone without creating an additional financial burden,” Mast said. “This legislation will go a long way in helping small businesses reopen their doors and protect our public health in the process.”

The bipartisan legislation is supported by the Orange County Business Council, Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce.

“As they start to reopen, businesses are working hard to keep employees and customers safe and they should be rewarded for doing the right thing,” said Lucy Dunn, President & CEO of the Orange County Business Council. “The bill also supports nonprofits and local governments with strained budgets that continue to serve in extraordinary times. OCBC urges the Orange County delegation to sign on to this important bill.”

Steve Rosansky, President & CEO of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the bill will help reimburse business owners for the cost of providing PPE and protective equipment necessary to protect their employees and customers against the COVID-19 virus at a time when they need it most.

“Small business in America has been suffering from the crushing effects of the shutdown of our economy,” he said.

Rouda Supports Aviation, Infrastructure Modernization Bill

In a separate act this week, Rouda also voted to pass H.R. 2, The Moving Forward Act, which addresses disparities across America by transforming the country’s infrastructure while creating millions of jobs and combatting the climate crisis. The bill includes Rouda’s amendments to reduce airplane emissions and noise and to modernize the nation’s water quality infrastructure while saving taxpayer dollars.

A majority of the House of Representatives voted to pass the bill, which now heads to the U.S. Senate for approval.

With a historic number of Americans unemployed, the Moving Forward Act “is more than a plan to fix American bridges, roads and schools,” said Rouda. “This bill is an opportunity to empower businesses and create jobs for working families—all while addressing the climate crisis. The Moving Forward Act, with the help of my amendments, will deliver common sense solutions that invest in our local communities…”

Newport Beach Council Member Jeff Herdman said transitioning commercial airline fleets to newer, quieter, less-polluting aircraft through the Aviation Industry Assistance for Cleaner and Quieter Skies Cleaner Voucher Program will provide long-term relief from the daily impacts to Orange County residents quality of life.

“[This] is a win for the airline industry and for Newport Beach and communities nationwide that are impacted by aircraft noise and emissions,” Herdman said. 

Adam Link, executive director of the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, said that

Rouda’s bipartisan smart water technology infrastructure amendment “illustrates strong congressional support for leveraging technology to improve the safety and security of our nation’s water treatment works.

“As Congress continues to advance national infrastructure improvements, we look forward to working with Representative Rouda to ensure that this program is enacted into law to deliver benefits to California’s sanitation agencies,” Link said.

The amendment also prioritizes the modernization of water quality improvement facilities, a provision that will help agencies like the Orange County Sanitation District, which serves more than 2.5 million Orange County residents, utilize advanced treatment technology to improve water quality and ensure a resilient, safe, and reliable water supply for Orange County—while reducing overall operating costs, said David Shawver, chairman of the Orange County Sanitation District, said in a statement.

Through the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), the amendment will also help agencies like the Orange County Water District improve its ability to purify wastewater to meet drinking water standards.

“This action, which supports smart technologies, will enhance California’s development of innovative water supply projects, and OCWD looks forward to working with Representative Rouda to guarantee that funding for infrastructure meets the needs of all our communities today and into the future,” said Vincente Sarmiento, board president of the Orange County Water District.

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