Coronavirus Update: April 10, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our nation, but my colleagues and I continue to work towards solutions. I wanted to share updates on the policies I am fighting for as Congress responds to this public health emergency.
I signed a letter to Secretary Mnuchin detailing the first-hand concerns of small businesses across the country seeking COVID-19 related assistance.
After the rollout of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), it is imperative that we understand the most effective ways to provide immediate relief.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs must reach the most vulnerable businesses in our community to effectively protect our economy. My colleagues and I sent a leader to Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy asking to set aside a portion of PPP funding for smaller community lenders, such as credit unions and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI). Additionally, we requested that prioritization of funding is given to veteran, minority, and women owned businesses.
I sent a letter to President Trump and Vice President Pence to request all materials related to COVID-19 assistance be available in both English and Spanish. Small business programs, guidance from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, unemployment relief from the Department of Labor, and all critical public information must be accessible to all Americans. Failing to provide guidance in Spanish could endanger the health, security, and safety of millions across the country.
As New Jersey fights back against a surge in cases, it is critical that the historic funding of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act reaches the hardest hit communities. My New Jersey colleagues and I urged the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider prioritizing hospitals such as ours in the next distribution, which are experiencing a high influx of COVID-19 cases. For some New Jersey hospitals, 90% or more of their current patient load is related to COVID-19 and they need immediate assistance.
More than 25% of doctors and 17% of medical workers in the U.S. are foreign born. As the virus spreads across the country, we cannot afford to forego crucial assistance and support wherever they are available. I supported a joint letter to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State asking for flexibilities to ensure that foreign physicians and healthcare workers can bolster our U.S. frontline workers.
After reports of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) seizures in Colorado and Massachusetts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), I joined a letter to the FEMA Administrator requesting protocol transparency. After states have been urged to independently procure PPE, we need complete data on FEMA processes, authority, and ultimate purpose for any seizures.
As unemployment claims reach unprecedented highs, individuals must still have the ability to pay for testing and treatment in a public health emergency. My colleagues and I requested that the Secretary of HHS open a Special Enrollment Period to allow individuals to access ACA Marketplace coverage during this unprecedented crisis. We cannot allow individuals to be burdened by a gap in coverage.
I joined a letter to congressional leadership requesting no less than $4.3 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). As social distancing continues, experts encourage us to stay at home. Low-income households, especially including individuals laid off due to the crisis, must retain access to electricity, drinking water, wastewater and more throughout this health emergency.
Across the nation, front line workers are risking their safety to protect our communities. I signed a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy asking to include supplemental pay for frontline workers, including utility, transportation, sanitation, and grocery workers, in any forthcoming stimulus.
After April 7th reports thousands of COVID-19 cases among New York City firefighters and police officers, I joined my colleagues in writing to congressional leadership and urging a number of policy measures to protect local first responders, including direct access to PPE and grant funding to stop staffing shortages.
The urgency of this pandemic requires immediate action in every community, no matter its size. Unfortunately, the CARES Act authorized stabilization funds for states and larger communities, but left out cities and towns under 500,000. I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 6467, the Coronavirus Community Relief Act, introduced by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) to correct this oversight. We cannot wait to help communities, large or small, in this historic fight.