Denver Does Crisis Management
These are troubling times for all of us – for Virginians and all Americans across the country – some are even stuck in Europe or Africa. We, along with the President, are all trying to figure out how to deal with what’s next in our new reality since COVID-19 has hit our shores.
Congress is acting like never before to get something done for the American people- especially those who have just been laid off or in danger of being evicted. I was able to reach out to Congressman Denver Riggleman of VA-5, while he is hunkered down in Nelson, to see how he is tackling this pandemic and serving his constituents.
Mike Allers: Hey, Denver, how are you?
Denver Riggleman: I’m doing ok, how are you doing?
I am stuck inside! [laughs] Out of school for God knows when….
Oh my God – forever [right]-
I think the year is a wrap.
Yeah – I think so too.
What are you doing for the people of the 5th at this time?
Well, I’ve been talking to restaurants today, but also, construction companies, health care companies – and what I’ve found is there’s already companies thinking about Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. I have others that have laid off 80 percent of their workforce. It’s not people that are panicking, but there is a sense of dread. And […] that’s what I am trying to mitigate, is their fears, and I am working very hard on the small business working group underneath Kevin Brady, the ranking member of Ways and Means.
Our Working Group suggestions go straight to Secretary Mnuchein. So I am excited things like small business interruption loans expedited by the Small Business Administration that was just approved based of the emergency declaration of all the counties in Virginia. By the way, that was my suggestions five days ago, based on forced closures of businesses by states, and the reaction to social distancing, and those with underlying conditions that could be vulnerable to CoronaVirus. So it’s been really interesting.
You’re really at the front of this.
Yes. Well, the thing is, I’m on the ground. I am a small business owner, I do have a business with almost 30 employees, and we also have those same issues. So, I am able to interact with small business owners that most members of Congress cannot.
How has your business been impacted so far? I know it’s a family business primarily, but have you felt the hit?
Oh, absolutely. This weeked, I don’t know if I should tell you numbers exactly but I think I will – we do over six figures a month out of our doors, not counting distribution. I won’t give you the exact number, but it’s over six figures per month. We’re already having to lay off part-time workers, and we need to find a way to help them. So, I am able to see how it affects them directly. And I can relay that to Congress for rulemaking, not only for SBA but for Treasury, for banks, for releasing [equity], things of that nature.
Sure. This is the scariest thing right? Not only do we have to bail out small businesses, but also individuals. There’s rent to be factored in – what is exactly – and I’ve been reading about the bill that just passed in the Senate. What is your take on $1,000-2,000 a month for every American?
I’m uncomfortable with it. […] People want it, and I get it politically, but a lot of those monies should be pumped into the employer side rather than the employee side at this point, and a lot of people want to be kept on payroll. And that’s what’s important.
In the short term politically this sounds great, but I understand your concern. Where does this go? If we are shut down till August we can’t afford this as a country.
Well , […] there’s 500 billion dollars for these payments – and I understand. I want to help people as much as I can. I would just hope that a lot of that stimulus would go towards the employer side so we can keep their health insurance, and things of that nature.
What would be your proposal on those that have to pay rent this month or in the coming months?
Well, that’s affirmant. I already got a call about that from somebody who is the vice president of a bank. Commercial real estate and hotels are absolutely devastated. Not only are rent payments not gonna be there, but you know, lodging for hotels – so right now, there has to be some deferment on rent for individuals who are out of work. A lot of that has to do with the unemployment benefits and the expedited loans that SBA is looking at right now.
So there is some good news. The good news is is that the Small Business Administration is actually giving expedited loans for interrupted businesses. That’s not just sick leave, based on closures, so you are going to see employees – and this is the hope, and right now it is a hope – you are going to see employees getting that money, up to eight weeks of pay. And by the way, this is still influx, […] so they can pay their rent, and make their bills.
Congressman, as a vet, would you deploy the military during this time?
You know, I would not. I don’t think deploying the military is necessary at this point. Let’s see what happens over the next few weeks. Maybe the National Guard is needed in some areas, if it gets very bad, but at this point, let’s see where we are at. Let’s see if we can
flatten the curve, what areas regionally are being affected, we can actually do regional mitigation, rather than a nationwide mitigation -get more statistics, and more data.
I agree, we do not what the military being exposed to this thing or put at risk.
No, we don’t, we don’t want to do that. Again, we don’t want to panic, we want to look at this practically, with vigilance, but we don’t wanna use a sledgehammer to kill mosquitos.
Let’s talk education – from the education side, if you’re Governor Northam, would you close for the year? Closing school – right now Kansas has, California and Connecticut are [considering]….
I mean, I think we should close schools till the end of the year, I mean we are almost to April….
As an educator, right now my data is useless right now.
One final question. What are your thoughts on, this is in corners of the internet, Tucker Carlson has talked about it, China’s potential involvement in expediting this virus?
It’s rubbish. Absolute rubbish. I think we need not talk about conspiracy theories, I’ve been in military intelligence for a long time, this was probably started through a wet market, probably started in a very unsanitary area, and we have seen illnesses like this before. So yeah, no it’s rubbish. If this is a biological warfare agent, they’re not very good at deploying it.
Cover photo: Michael Allers Jr. interviews Congressman Riggleman at his 2020 campaign kickoff event