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U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden speaks during a town hall meeting in Roseburg in October 2019.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, spoke with Oregon reporters in a teleconference Monday about his efforts to obtain COVID-19 relief. The relief plan was approved on Monday and awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

Wyden said he had wanted to extend $600 per week of unemployment relief but had to battle Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, for $300 per week, which is what the most recent package includes. The payments start on Dec. 26 and continue for 11 weeks.

Wyden criticized McConnell for inserting what Wyden said was tax deductions for “three-martini lunches” to the bill.

Wyden said he’d be watchdogging the Oregon Employment Department. He’s been critical of that agency over its slow rollout of unemployment benefits under the last COVID-19 relief package.

“We’ve got thousands of families in Oregon walking an economic tightrope, balancing a food bill against a fuel bill and the fuel bill against the rent bill,” Wyden said.

Wyden also recently negotiated a package in the Senate Finance and House Ways & Means Committee that would expand the employee retention tax credit in the end-of-year tax package as well as allow small businesses to deduct expenses covered by the Paycheck Protection Program.

“These folks are desperate in order to just keep their doors open and make it to the other side,” he said.

Wyden also pushed for an addition to the most recent COVID-19 relief package that will give low-income families an additional $50 a month for internet access, important for children who need access to online schooling and adults working remotely.

He said broadband will be expanded to some areas without coverage, and said that dovetails with his efforts to get more telehealth care for Medicare patients including mental health patients.

Before COVID-19 hit, Wyden and former Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch passed legislation that temporarily increased the availability of telehealth. Now he’s working to make those permanent and to include mental health care because mental health needs are off the charts, he said.

“I think we all know you can’t have rural life without rural healthcare, so it is a quality of life issue, particularly for folks who are elderly and isolated,” he said.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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(3) comments

NJ

And today all of it means nothing as Trump has refused to sign the bill with the meager $600 relief, or pocket veto the bill by waiting the 10 days while he languishes at Mar-a-Lago. Waiting 10 days (which excludes Sundays) ends January 4th, our newly elected Congress begins January 3rd, so Congress will have to begin again with a whole new relief package. Isn't it just swell how Trump seems so willing to punish every American even those who so willingly have told him they'll be in Washington DC to riot during the Biden's inauguration. He's so great, the Proud Boys are so happy they've been working on a way to figure out how to get weapons into DC for their effort. And they'll travel to DC on their own dime rather than pay for that travel with a stimulus check. Yes, oh yes, Trump has made his last 30 days so very special to Americans, especially with sweeping pardons of criminals just like him. Happy Covid-19 Spread! Happy Homelessness and Hunger! Happy Federal Government Shut Down Again! Happy Refusing to Fund the Military! And a Happy, Happy HOLIDAYS to All!

Umpquabob

Wyden represents himself, not Oregon. And he is so slick he's slimy.

melrosereader

Orrin Hatch represented Utah, not Arizona

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