ROCK SPRINGS — U.S. Senator John Barrasso expressed concerns over the recent uptick in COVID-19 Coronavirus cases in the country and what the virus has done to Wyoming’s economy.
During the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce’s virtual luncheon, Senator Barrasso answered questions and listened to some concerns those attending the luncheon had. Barrasso started off talking about the COVID-19 Coronavirus and how its impacted Wyoming.
While Wyoming hasn’t been overwhelmed the number of cases other states have seen, it has been trying to deal with the economic development hardships the virus has caused most of Wyoming’s business owners.
Barrasso said Wyoming had 13,000 small businesses receive Paycheck Protection Program Loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration. He said even though the economy is continuing to struggle, he wanted to remind residents the state will get through it.
Barrasso said the government has extended the time for businesses to apply for loans that don’t have to be paid back. The new deadline is August 8, 2020.
He said Wyoming has been fortunate because it received $1.25 billion, which is the same amount 21 other states received, which is a win for Wyoming since it’s the least populated state.
Sweetwater County Commission Chairman Randy Wendling asked Sen. Barrasso if the cities, towns, and counties were going to receive more COVID-19 impact funding.
As for future COVID-19 funding, Barrasso said Congress is working on another bill. However, the House and the Senate are not on the same page on how much that amount should be or who should receive the funding. The Senate thinks it should be $1 trillion to help those specifically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, while the House wants $3 trillion to be spent on various projects unrelated to COVID-19.
Barrasso said he’d like to see the funding go to items directly related to COVID-19, such as new treatments and vaccines.
Rock Springs Mayor Timothy Kaumo asked if cities, towns, and counties would receive more infrastructure funding to help with needed repairs.
Barrasso said the damage done to Interstate 80 isn’t from residents traveling on it, it’s from commercial trucks, however anything the government could do to help would be on borrowed money because the Highway Trust Fund is going broke.
As for diversifying Wyoming’s economy, Barrasso said Wyoming has been blessed with agricultural land, tourism and energy.
“I don’t see anything replacing those three,” Barrasso said.
He said he just doesn’t see Wyoming bringing in big industries to replace them.
“We need to focus on getting people back to work and kids back to school,” Barrasso said.
However, Barrasso is concerned about the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, but he also looks at the amount of hospitalizations as well.
“As a doctor, I’m concerned about this latest uptick in cases,” Barrasso said about the country’s numbers. “We are still at such a small number and number of those hospitalized.”
Another concern he had was how people are just acting like nothing’s happening. He said people aren’t social distancing or wearing face coverings and he’s concerned this behavior will lead to a spike in cases.
Also, during the luncheon, Chris Eyler, Executive Director of the Northwest Region and Congressional and Public Affairs at U.S. Chamber of Commerce, presented Sen. Barrasso with a U.S. Chamber Spirit of Enterprise Award.
By earning the 2020 Spirit of Enterprise award, Barrasso has shown his commitment to not only supporting pro-business legislation, but also a commitment to the bipartisan leadership and constructive governing necessary to move our country forward, Eyler said.
This award is given in recognition of Barrasso’s support for pro-growth policies and for supporting Wyoming’s Businesses.