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On Senate Floor, Rubio Demands Action to Help Local Businesses, Service Members Against Zika
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today urged Congress to immediately pass additional funding to combat the Zika virus after Democrats blocked it for a third time earlier this week. In his 10th Senate floor speech on Zika this year, Rubio highlighted the Wynwood community in Miami, where small businesses had to temporarily close after the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel advisory this summer. Rubio also spoke about the rising number of military men and women who have contracted the virus and the importance of protecting them.
Rubio announced today he has introduced two pieces of Zika-related legislation. One aims to help Zika-affected small businesses get loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the second would provide additional protections to Department of Defense personnel and their families.
A partial transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below. His full speech can be watched here and a downloadable broadcast quality version is available here for TV stations.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor
September 8, 2016
Senator Marco Rubio: “There is a neighborhood in Miami, Florida. It’s called Wynwood. This was an area that for many years was economically depressed. And it’s come alive. It’s a center of art. It has these murals. If you go down there, graffiti artists have been allowed to come in and do these extraordinary murals. I don’t even call it graffiti – it’s art. It’s a place where so much of the art communities are now centered. And it’s come alive at night with restaurants. Some of the best restaurants in South Florida are in the Wynwood community. It’s a magnet for tourists. There are literally people that fly to Florida, South Florida in particular and go straight to Wynwood because they want to be a part of that vibrant area.
“It was the first area impacted and the CDC came out with a warning telling people to avoid a neighborhood. This is usually the kind of advisory that goes out about avoiding other countries. Telling Americans and travelers specifically to avoid a certain part of a certain neighborhood. Can you imagine the impact that had on the businesses in that community? We have already talked about the human toll of Zika, of the infection, of what it does to unborn children. But it also…the economic impact of having a lead health care agency in charge of public health in America issuing a warning to Americans to avoid a neighborhood in an American city. I promise you, that was not good for those businesses. And they saw- some of these businesses had to close for weeks on end and days on end.”
“So in addition to the broader argument about Zika, these are two commonsense approaches: giving the Department of Defense flexibility to move existing money around, to provide additional protections for our service men and women and their dependents who are being deployed and impacted by Zika. This is not a theory. We have over 100 people now, including 81 in uniform, that have been impacted by it and 19 of their dependents, three of them that are pregnant.
“And second, the small business relief. Please put yourself in the position of a family-owned business on South Beach or in Wynwood, and they are being hurt. Instead of having 50 people coming in a day, they have five or ten, and they need help. And if they had lost power or been hit by a hurricane or a tornado, this wouldn’t be an issue. But they’ve been hit by a tornado of a different kind, one they didn’t cause, they couldn’t predict and they couldn’t insure against, and that is Zika. So let’s make sure the SBA has the flexibility to provide them their loans.
“So in addition to funding this, we’ve got to get the Zika thing done. It cannot continue to languish. We’ve got to get the SBA flexibility built into our law so these small businesses can be provided the resources they need to stay open and not close down as a result of a travel advisory because of a disease being spread by mosquitoes. And I think we would all agree that we’ve got to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect our men and women in uniform who aren’t going by choice; they are being deployed to these places where Zika is prevalent and they’re being infected. There is no excuse to not help them as well.
“So these are the three things I hope we’ll do before Congress adjourns at the end of this month: fund Zika fully, give flexibility for our small businesses to get SBA loans who have been impacted by Zika, and do everything we can by passing a law to give the Department of Defense the flexibility they need to use existing money to protect our men and women in uniform and their families from being infected by Zika when deployed.”