Coronavirus Update April 24, 2020
This week in Washington, I voted to pass an interim stimulus package that provides $484 billion for the response to COVID-19. Additionally, I continued to work with my colleagues in crafting and supporting new response measures for businesses and hospitals. As the nation fights this pandemic, and our home state grapples with over 100,000 cases, my thoughts are with the brave front line workers keeping our loved ones safe.
Fourth Stimulus Package - On Thursday, the House considered H.R. 266, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Health Care Enhancement Act, which passed the Senate earlier this week. Included in this emergency stimulus for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was $310 billion to restart PPP, of which $60 billion was specifically set aside for underserved businesses, including those that are minority-owned, as well as $50 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program and $10 billion for the EIDL Grant Program. It also includes $75 billion for hospitals and health care workers so their needs can be met, including the procuring of Personal Protective Equipment, along with $25 billion for testing which is vital for us to determine just how widespread this virus is.
Paycheck Protection Program - I am encouraged by this new disbursement of funding for small businesses but remain committed to ensuring relief gets in the right hands and quickly. On Thursday, I submitted written testimony to the House Committee on Small Business outlining challenges I’ve heard from constituents and reiterating changes I’ve advocated for with my colleagues. For future legislation, I’ve joined colleagues in asking congressional leadership to fully fund the PPP at a level that ensures every impacted small business receives funding and create a data collection mechanism to ensure assistance reaches underserved businesses. Additionally, we’ve requested the Department of the Treasury and the Small Business Administration (SBA) clarify best practices and provide guidance to banks for PPP loan prepayment, We must ensure every eligible small business receives the help they need to weather this crisis.
Testing - Accessible, accurate testing is essential to our fight against coronavirus. I cosponsored H.R. 6609, the Immediate COVID-19 Testing Procurement Act, introduced by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA). Under this legislation, the President would be required to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) in order to procure the swabs, equipment, components, and materials needed to facilitate nationwide coronavirus testing. H.R. 6609 is currently under review by the House Committee on Financial Services.
Medicare - Senior citizens are a high-risk population and must be able to access health coverage. I joined my colleagues in sending a letter to the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requesting they re-open of the 2020 General Enrollment period for Medicare, expedite when coverage for enrollees begins, and take steps to limit penalizing individuals for their inability to enroll during these times.
DACA - In these volatile times, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients cannot be left without coverage, yet they are ineligible for coverage and benefits afforded through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In a letter sent to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, my colleagues and I urged the full integration and support of DACA recipients, allowing them to access ACA benefits by repealing their exclusion in current regulation.
Labor Unions - Union members in critical industries cannot be forgotten when we are distributing relief. My colleagues and I sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy requesting language in stimulus legislation to authorize 501(c)(5) organizations, like labor unions, for eligibility under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Essential Workers - Congress must address the realities essential workers are facing in this pandemic. In a letter to congressional leadership, my colleagues and I called for the next legislative package to prioritize worker-centered economic relief, specifically including maintaining wages and health care benefits, hazard pay, and more.
Additionally, I cosponsored H.R. 6514, the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act, which was introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). This legislation would provide continuity in coverage for furloughed workers with employer-sponsored health plans. Fighting a pandemic requires every American to have access to the health care they need. H.R. 6514 is currently under review by the House Committee on Education and Labor.
Unaccompanied Minors - In a letter to the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, my colleagues and I called for the immediate release and reunification of detained children. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the nearly 2,400 children in the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s custody are at heightened risk of infection. We cannot allow this vulnerable population to remain unprotected.
Detention Centers - After reports of liability waivers only available in English and new “cohorting protocols”, my colleagues and I demanded the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security provide answers and data on COVID-19 procedures in all detention centers. With 253 confirmed cases in 29 facilities, including facilities in the 8th District, we must take every precaution to protect the wellbeing of those who face increased risk in ICE detention.
Please know that I will continue working to get the 8th District the resources it needs. If you have questions or need assistance please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202)-225-7919 and follow instructions to be connected to my staff or send an email to NJ8inquiries@mail.house.gov. Together we can get through this.