Congressional Action During the Coronavirus Pandemic
The Congress has taken swift and bipartisan action to stem the physical and financial impacts of this pandemic. This is the biggest economic and health crisis the country has ever faced and now the largest governmental response the country has ever seen to rescue people, the economy, and the health care system. We passed three emergency bills to provide aid to Americans across the country who are facing the catastrophic consequences of this outbreak. The first two bills, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act aimed to provide emergency funding for state and local responses, procurement of supplies, development of vaccines, unemployment insurance and Medicaid benefits, paid sick days and paid leave for eligible employees, food security, and free COVID-19 testing.
On Friday, March 27, 2020, the House passed the historic third bill in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, by voice vote. The bill was signed into law the same day. The package provides $2 trillion to address the needs of the American people during the coronavirus outbreak. This bipartisan bill outlines provisions for working Americans from income assistance and unemployment insurance to aid for hospitals and healthcare workers to relief for small businesses.
Congress’s top priority is and must continue to be tackling this health crisis in order to protect our health workers, our first responders, and those who have fallen ill. To that end, this bill provides $200 billion for hospitals, health systems, and health research including:
- $27 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, including $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile for PPE and other medical supplies.
- $1 billion for manufacturing medical supplies through the Defense Production Act.
It also contains $150 billion for state and local governments who are on the front lines battling the spread of this virus—including an estimated $1.38 billion for Connecticut. Taken together, this bill provides an emergency infusion of resources for protective equipment and supplies, staff, and support to deal with the outbreak and develop treatments and a vaccine in the coming months and years.
The ongoing public health crisis has quickly cascaded into an economic crisis as businesses and schools close. Working people and families are looking to Congress for support, and this bill includes resources for them in their time of need. The bill includes provisions to help our most vulnerable:
- Expanded unemployment insurance (UI) benefits - $600 a week for four months in addition to other UI benefits
- One-time payments of $1,200 per individual and $500 per child.
- $3.5 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant which will allow childcare programs to maintain critical operations, including meeting emergency staffing needs and ensuring first responders and health care workers can access childcare while they respond to the pandemic.
- $900 million for LIHEAP, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
- Forgivable loans up to 8 weeks for eligible small businesses and nonprofits.
- $4 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants for homeless individuals or those at risk of homelessness.
- $15.85 billion for healthcare access for veterans.
- Requirement that private insurers and Medicare cover the costs of testing and prevention of COVID-19.
As Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee, I am proud of the investments we made for our working people, for public health, and for teachers and students. Even still, this bill falls short in many ways in protecting America’s most vulnerable. As Congress continues to address the rapidly changing needs of this crisis, you can be certain I will continue to fight for provisions that would ensure all people and families have access to paid sick days and paid leave, increased food assistance, and an expanded and fully refundable Child Tax Credit and Young Child Tax Credit.
With all the updates and information on each piece of legislation circulating, you may have some questions that need clarifying about how this bill will directly impact you, your business, and the State of Connecticut. It is my priority to provide you with all necessary information to keep you safe and informed during these uncertain times. For resources for residents of Connecticut, please see here. You may also call my office at 203-562-3718 if you have any questions.