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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tennessee, speaks with Bradley County law enforcement on Thursday, April 16, 2020, before heading out on a tour of areas in Cleveland that were hit by a tornado on Sunday, April 12.

During a Facebook Live "Town Hall," U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Ooltewah, said the U.S. House and Senate will likely pass a fifth stimulus bill that could include financial aid for infrastructure, as well as more money for individuals.

Fleischmann took questions for nearly an hour on Thursday afternoon from followers on his Facebook page about the current state of the country's economy, Gov. Bill Lee's decision to open the economy back up and what lawmakers are doing in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to help citizens navigate the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Fleischmann touched on the fourth stimulus bill that was passed that doled out more than $350 billion to states and cities across the country to help budget shortfalls. Tennessee is expected to receive some $3.66 billion in federal funding under the massive congressional responses to the nation's coronavirus pandemic and economic woes.

Fleischmann said the fifth stimulus bill will likely include more money for states and cities.

"We just found out today that there will probably be some form of aid to states and perhaps cities," he said. "We have heard from governors and people from all over the United States and we feel there may be a need for additional monies for the states."

Fleischmann added there has been talk about giving out more money to individuals on top of the $1,200 checks many American citizens have already received. He also said he'd personally like to see infrastructure get some assistance in the next stimulus bill.

"I think we're long overdue for that type of package," he said.

Fleischmann was a strong proponent of the Paycheck Protection Program that was designed to help small businesses as millions of people filed for unemployment and thousands of employers had to close bars, restaurants and other businesses.

"More small businesses will finally be able to gain access to the Paycheck Protection Program to pay workers and keep their doors open," Fleischmann said earlier this month. "I remain committed to helping the workers and small business owners of East Tennessee as we face these uncertain times together as a community and as a nation."

Thursday, Fleischmann addressed concerns many in the restaurant industry had after saying the PPP aid was poorly managed, rushed and didn't meet the needs it was supposed to.

"Many of our friends in the restaurant industry have told us candidly that the aid package that was put together really didn't help them very much," he said. "Why? Because they lost their customer base, lost their employees and the bill that was passed required them to have 75% of that money addressed to their employees. We have to refine this package and try to fix the holes that were created."

Fleischmann said lawmakers did a "pretty good job under very difficult circumstances" but "perhaps in this next round we can refine it a little better and fill in those gaps that perhaps weren't served the first four times."

Fleischmann went on to address the desire for citizens wanting to attend church again and efforts to make sure people get in contact with financiers about mortgage payments. He agreed with President Trump in ordering workers to continue working in meat processing plants even as coronavirus cases increase in those environments.

Fleischmann said it's important to keep those workers safe and at the same time make sure there isn't a shortage of meat or produce around the country.

The congressman thanked hospital workers on the front lines of the pandemic, said he didn't want poorly managed states to be bailed out by the federal government in the upcoming stimulus bills, urged people to continue practicing social distancing and said he is eager to get a haircut as barbershops and hair salons prepare to open.

"The vast majority of Americans and East Tennesseans are optimists," he said. "We are can-do people, people who work together well and come together in times of crisis. We are going to come out of this crisis strong."

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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