FARGO — Fargo teacher Paul Kolesar said when the government ordered the earlier shutdown for the coronavirus pandemic the 160 million stimulus payments sent to Americans were a good idea.
He believes the government should compensate residents when they make mandated shutdowns.
Kolesar said he also favors a second round of stimulus checks, a measure that is being discussed in the U.S. Senate as they work on a third legislative package in response to the pandemic. The House already passed another relief bill in May that includes a second round of stimulus checks, and the Senate is expected to address their package starting in mid-July.
The decision on the checks remains murky with Republicans in the Senate and the White House divided, but President Donald Trump said last week that he believes another round could help further boost the economy and indicated that he supported more direct payments.
Kolesar and his wife, Jennifer, said they have saved most of their first $2,400 check given to couples and are thinking of replacing one of their vehicles.
Meanwhile, Kolesar's mother, Patty, who was visiting from Green River, Wyo., last week and enjoying ice cream at one of the reopened businesses in downtown Fargo, said she thinks if the second stimulus checks are sent out they should go "to the people who need it."
Jeff Sowers, a traveling nurse working in Fargo from West Palm Beach, Fla., said the first round of stimulus checks that totaled about $269 billion nationwide helped him and his fiancee, Monica Saunders, to "continue to live life in some sense of normalcy."
He said in these times of "high-wire tensions" that the money provided in a second round of checks could "help ease the burdens of so many."
Sowers and Saunders said they were surprised with the "good faith effort" and bipartisanship that Congress showed in responding to the pandemic with the earlier checks and other aid.
Whether that continues into this next round remains to be seen.
U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said in an interview on his way back to the state from Washington, D.C., that he thinks this next bill will be more contentious.
He predicts "some version of direct payments" or stimulus checks to individuals will emerge in the Senate bill.
Cramer noted that in discussions for the first round of stimulus checks, President Trump actually wanted two rounds of payments to go out.
The senator said he's currently in the camp "that at the very least the stimulus checks merit a discussion."
The second round could help in the economic recovery even more, he said, as more local business places are open compared to earlier when most were closed.
In tempering what may emerge, Cramer added that some senators are concerned about the rising national debt because of the stimulus packages.
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., seemed to err more on that side and said in a statement he was cautious about the extent of another stimulus package.
"Before we pass additional funds we need to ensure that the resources that we have already provided are being utilized as effectively as possible," he said. "In addition, we need to clearly identify the remaining needs to ensure that future funding is targeted appropriately, effectively and is a responsible use of taxpayer dollars."
The senior senator said as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee he is already working on additional assistance for farmers and ranchers.
Meanwhile, Minnesota's two Democratic senators think the Senate should have taken up a relief package earlier.
“We need to get help to the Minnesotans who need it," said U.S. Sen. Tina Smith in a statement. "This means Congress should take action by extending expiring unemployment benefits and providing support to local governments, hospitals, child care providers and people on the front line of the fight against COVID-19.
"We need to provide support for dependents and small businesses, as well as compensation for workers facing COVID-19 exposure. The House of Representatives already passed a bill to do all these critical things — which includes another round of stimulus payments — but Senate Republicans have refused to act," she said.
"People's lives and livelihoods are on the line, and it’s far past time for Mitch McConnell to bring a bill to the Senate floor to address the current crises. Helping Americans during this time should be a bipartisan issue," she said.
Liz Smalley, a spokesperson for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, said, "With more than 120,000 American lives lost and millions out of work, the senator believes now is not the time to take off the gas on future action to help those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic."