Congressman Joe Cunningham was the featured speaker at the GIC General Meeting on June 4, 2020. Following are answers to questions that were not addressed during the meeting and were provided later by the Congressman.
Responses from Congressman Cunningham to additional questions from members of the GIC
Numerous reports say that South Carolina is one of a number of states in which the criminal justice system places unaffordable burdens on low income families, and often results in loss of jobs and breakup of families. Is this something that Congress can help resolve, or is the South Carolina legislature the only avenue of reform?
Criminal Justice Reform is one of the few bipartisan issues that the Congress is attempting to address. While we are a long way from a solution, it’s good to see both sides of the aisle at the table for the discussion. This is not just an issue Congress has to address, but the South Carolina legislature as well. There are reform bills currently in Congress addressing the inequalities in the system and we will work to do our part, but this will require all levels of government to have those difficult conversations.
What about immunity legislation to protect small businesses including day care, day camps and other small business venues. Many of these businesses will not open for fear of a lawsuit brought by someone claiming they caught COVID-19 while visiting their business.
My priority has been and always will be ensuring the health and safety of South Carolinians. I know that our economy will only be fully reignited when South Carolinians feel safe enough to participate in the economy. Congress and state legislatures can and should take steps to remove reasonable liabilities from companies, so long as these businesses take all the steps necessary to keep infected employees and customers away and keep their workplace as safe as possible. We should not incentivize reckless behavior or give a free pass to employers who take risks with the health and safety of their employees or the public. An incremental reopening approach with clear benchmarks set by public health officials is the best way to ensure that businesses are taking the proper steps to keep their employees and customers safe, and consumers have the confidence they need to fully participate in the economy
During the pandemic, bikes have become the new toilet paper – they are flying off shelves as people seek safe transportation, exercise and mental health. What is your view of Washington supporting more alternative transportation?
I am in favor of alternative transportation and making sure we have walkable and pedestrian friendly communities. While I am not a member of the House Transportation Committee, we are continuing to develop legislation to increase bike and walking trails throughout the district and country.
Where is SC with the Hate Crimes legislation?
Right now, South Carolina is one of a few states without strong hate crime laws. After the tragedy at Mother Emmanuel AME church, where peaceful worshippers were targeted because of their race, South Carolina should send a message that violence towards anyone because of race, religion, color, sex, age,
national origin, sexual orientation, gender identification, or homelessness will be met with the seriousness that those crimes deserve.
The SC House Judiciary Committee has a bill to provide additional penalties for a person convicted of a crime with the intent to assault, intimidate, or threaten a person for any of those reasons. Some of those penalties include felony charges, fines up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison for those convicted of a hate crime.
The PPP and EIDL money were provided to businesses to get owners to pay their employees and their rents or mortgage. That money was used right away, especially in the restaurant industry. But restaurants are only open at 50% so essentially making 50% revenue. I know you voted against the House bill and that’s okay but what do you see coming for relief for small businesses?
I voted against the Heroes Act because I believed that it did not go far enough to address this very issue. When talking to small businesses throughout the Lowcountry, they are struggling to keep their doors open and need help now. I was happy to vote in favor of the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, which extended the use of funds from 8 weeks to 24 weeks; changed the 75% requirement to use funds on payroll to 60%; delayed the June 30th deadline to reopen at full capacity and adjusted the loan repayment terms from 2 years to 5 years. I’m glad that this bill passed both chambers and is heading to the President’s desk.
What can we do to help educate you on the local issues we have here to help with broadband for school students?
If you have specific thoughts about broadband, don’t hesitate to reach out to my office by email here: https://cunningham.house.gov/contact/email-me or by phone call at 202-225-3176. As a member of the Rural Broadband Taskforce, I am actively working on legislation to improve access to broadband for students and families. So far, our draft legislation includes provisions to expand the e-rate program so that schools can get funding to provide wifi to students on buses, and federal money for hotspot lending. The FCC is also in the process of implementing the Broadband DATA Act, which passed unanimously this year. The new law allows communities to challenge the FCC’s broadband maps. This means that if FCC data shows that your neighborhood has access to broadband, but you know that it does not, there will be a process for you to correct their maps. That way federal investment in broadband infrastructure goes to the neighborhoods that need it.
We are a huge arts & culture community – how can we provide relief for those organizations that have been hit so hard with not being able to provide performances?
The CARES act set aside $75 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide emergency relief to cultural organizations like museums, theatres, and concert halls. While the deadline for the first round of grant funding has passed, there are other NEH grants that you can for search here https://www.neh.gov/grants/listing?keywords=&page=0. My office is happy to provide support to organizations applying for federal grants.