Rep. Steil on Wisconsin’s Economy, “Beyond Just Ending the Disease”

The news that multiple coronavirus vaccines are reaching levels of more than 90% effectiveness and being distributed is the first real wave of optimism the public has received regarding an end to the current crisis. While this is an imperative step toward success, U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil stated in an interview with WBA that defeating this pandemic is about more than just stopping the virus’ spread.

“Not everyone has been impacted the same by this virus,” said Steil. “Some individuals and employers have seen a very minimal impact, while others have been impacted significantly. Managing an effective approach consists of providing targeted relief to individuals who have fallen on challenging times due to no fault of their own, rather than providing a broad, blanket approach that we did originally.”

The issue, as Steil explained it, is that the money used to relieve the crisis will bear a burden on the U.S. for generations. By understanding where the funds are most needed now, the hope is to be mindful of the growing national debt.

“It’s important to note how far we’ve come into debt, and Wisconsin bankers are cognizant of that,” said Steil. “We’re ultimately taking on debt that is at some point going to be paid off. The reason I put so much time and effort into having the relief be targeted and be thoughtful of taxpayer’s dollars is the awareness of where we’re at from a national debt standpoint.”

As of October, the U.S. surpassed $27 trillion (about $83,000 per person) of debt with the numbers still climbing. Steil added that there are CARES Act dollars that have been previously allocated in Wisconsin that remain unspent.

Using money that has already been allocated will help to limit federal dollars that would be used. A primary concern is the possibility of going beyond what is required for the given situation. Assuring this does not happen is a crucial way to strengthen the economy while still being considerate of people’s livelihoods.

Gov. Tony Evers has voiced his thoughts on the matter as well, stating that “unless we get additional support from Congress, our state will have to foot the bill for our response after the New Year."

Steil further added how significant of a role Congress has played in Wisconsin’s response to the virus.

“Congress acted appropriately in the beginning of the pandemic by implementing the Paycheck Protection Program,” he said. “It helped ensure that 150,000 workers in southeast Wisconsin received their paychecks during the pandemic. We were able to keep those businesses and jobs in existence during the early days of the pandemic when it was a new challenge, but it’s critical that we continue to keep our smaller employers going through this difficult time. Only then can they come out on the other side and once again flourish.”

Much of Steil’s time is currently spent speaking with workers and job creators about the importance of navigating their way through this turbulent business climate. It is an uphill battle that many are facing, but he is confident that if the proper steps are taken and a stimulus package is released sooner rather than later, our state’s economy will come back stronger than ever.

“There were reasons that we had to flood the market with liquidity early on, but we need to continue being good stewards of taxpayer’s dollars,” Steil emphasized. “We can do that by providing targeted relief that is going to be critical in successfully defeating the virus. Wisconsin bankers understand that ending the pandemic goes beyond just ending the disease.”

Interested in topics like this? Join WBA for an economic discussion at the Midwest Economic Forecast Forum co-hosted with Indiana Bankers Association.  

By, Alex Paniagua