© 2021 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Government & Politics
WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Portman Wants Congress to Work Remotely, Seeks Fixes to Paycheck Protection Program

A photo of Sen. Rob Portman.
Sen. Rob Portman hosted a remote meeting last week before returning to Washington Monday.

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) is back in Washington along with the rest of the Senate. However, Portman is advocating for Congress working and meeting remotely, as millions of Americans have begun to do during the coronavirus pandemic. The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Portman, held the first remote meeting in the history of the Senate last week.

The hearing is part of a change Portman says he wants to lead, as he thinks conducting hearings and potentially voting remotely is necessary in this time of crisis. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the viability of Congress meeting and voting remotely, and Portman says the fact that it went well proves it is possible and Congress should pursue it.

“When the Congress cannot come together or should not come together, we can work remotely, just as my constituents do. Probably half the people I represent have been working somewhat remotely or entirely remotely for the past 6 weeks, at least.”

Portman says even when not in a time of crisis, remote hearings should be more common practice. He says Congress should use them during times of recess so they can get work done even when they are not together, and remote meetings could give the public more access.

Portman says he knows at least two other committees have remote hearings scheduled for this week. He says he hopes more remote meetings and hearings will lead to Congress reaching a temporary agreement also allowing for remote voting until it is safer to vote in person.

The Paycheck Protection Program could receive more funding from future coronavirus stimulus bills, but other aspects of the program may be also adjusted. Portman says business owners who may otherwise qualify for a PPP loan are being denied due to a prior criminal conviction. Portman calls the restriction unfair.

Portman on the goal of the PPP

“You want somebody who has made a mistake to come out of the system and not just turn his or her life around, but contribute to the community and help others.”

Portman says he’s working with other senators to make the changes based on feedback from business owners.  He also says other reforms are needed, including an extension of the eight-week period a business has to spend its loan and more flexibility on what the money can be spent on, including rent and utilities.