By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Nevada’s 1st U.S. House District Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said on Nevada Newsmakers this week that she is confident Congress will pass a new stimulus bill after House Democrats pushed through a $2.2 trillion package late Thursday.
“I am optimistic about it,” Titus told host Sam Shad.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), held meetings with White House officials, including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Titus said. Mnuchin, however, is only publicly proposing a $1.6 trillion plan, according to news reports.
“We’re pretty sure something is going to happen,” Titus said. “Republicans want something, too. These should not be partisan issues. You’ve got Democratic and Republican states that are in trouble and they (federal lawmakers) need something to take home to their districts, especially some of these vulnerable Republican senators. So I feel better about it today.”
The plan passed by the U.S. House includes another round of individual stimulus checks of $1,200 and the re-establishment of an extra $600 a week for the unemployed.
Nevada suffers from the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 13.2 percent for August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state suffered a 30 percent unemployment rate earlier this year as the COVID pandemic and teetering economy collided. It hit Nevada’s tourism-based workers and small business owners with a double-whammy of bad luck.
“Everybody who got $1,200 before will get another $1,200 as a direct payment and the supplemental unemployment payment (of $600 a week) will go to the end of the year,” Titus said about the U.S. House bill. “And you know how much we need that in Nevada. We still have the highest unemployment rate in the country.
“So many people (in Nevada) are suffering because we depend so heavily on tourism, travel and hospitality,” Titus said.
Titus praised Gov. Steve Sisolak for his handling of his statewide virus mitigation efforts.
“Everybody is frustrated about staying at home,” Titus said. “They want to go to work. They want their children to go to school. They want the economy to come back. But we have to remember that the pandemic is tied to the economy and the governor (Sisolak) has been very smart about opening us back up gradually. He has listened to the scientists. He has listened to the health-care experts. And it is working. Our numbers are down. You don’t want to rush into something, have it spike again, then maybe have to close down again and then it would take longer to recover and be more expensive.”
Titus also took a swipe at anti-maskers.
“It’s only a handful of people who say we gotta open now and are too stupid to wear a mask,” she said.
Titus said Las Vegas’ tourism numbers are again growing. Her congressional district includes The Las Vegas Strip, Nevada’s main economic engine.
“People still want to come to Las Vegas,” she said. “We have reports that McCarran (International Airport) is recovering more quickly than any other major airport in the country. That (McCarran recovery) is still way down from what it was but people are still coming. They are starting to feel safe. And having all of those things in place — like all the casinos that have reopened with the hand cleaning, the sterilization and the masks — all that is working and people appreciate it.”
McCarran’s total passengers dipped to a low of less than 153,000 in April but grew to 1.7 million in August, according to the airport’s statistics. Before the pandemic hit, McCarran had 4.15 million total passengers in January..
Titus is especially concerned about the loss of convention traffic, which keeps Las Vegas’ hotels full during mid-week.
“We think about tourists coming for fun but we really rely on the convention business. Think about how many jobs are tied to that,” Titus said. “That is a big problem. We worry about our families here in Nevada. Jeremy Aguero, who is the big numbers cruncher in the state, said it could take four years to get back to where we were. But the rodeo just missed one year and they are coming back, CES (Consumer Electronics Show) just missed one year they are coming back. And then if we get a vaccine, then I think you will see it come back more quickly.”
Aguero said on Nevada Newsmakers in May that a full Las Vegas recovery could take as long as three years.
Live entertainment and smaller restaurants in Las Vegas is also on the ropes and Titus is co-sponsoring bills to help them.
“That is why I am a co-sponsor of the STAGE Act, to try and get some federal funding for some of the smaller entertainment venues,” Titus said. “And there is also a RESTART Act that would provide some funding for some restaurants, which is very important. Many of the smaller restaurants that are closed, if they can’t get some help, they may not ever come back.”