WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) released the below statement today, following news that the Senate passed the House’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
“From affordability of testing to meals for kids whose schools are closed, and from paid sick days for those who may be ill to unemployment insurance for those who lose work because of the virus, this package puts our families first. This bipartisan bill is a strong next step that will bring relief to many Americans facing the health and economic impacts of the Coronavirus,” said Congresswoman Bustos. “Today, I was pleased to see the Senate pass this relief package and I look forward to it being signed into law swiftly, as we look to take additional legislative measures moving forward.”
Saturday morning, the House passed a bipartisan legislative package addressing the outbreak of coronavirus, the Families First bill prioritizes the needs of hardworking Americans, in order to help them navigate challenging financial times. The bill also helps families make good public health decisions by removing barriers and empowering people to following medical advice.
The package includes:
- Free Coronavirus Testing: No one will be denied a test due to cost.
- An Emergency Paid Leave Program: Up to two weeks of paid sick leave for employers with fewer than 500 employees.
- Food Assistance: Support for nutrition security initiatives, including SNAP, student meals, meals for seniors and food banks. In the 14 counties that Illinois’ 17th Congressional District covers, 55.2 percent of school-age kids are eligible for free/reduced lunch.
- Enhanced Unemployment Benefits: States must have the resources and flexibility to provide unemployment benefits to laid off and furloughed workers.
- Safeguards for Medicaid Benefits: Increased federal funding for Medicaid.
In early March, an $8.3 billion Coronavirus emergency funding package was passed by Congress and signed into law. The bill includes funding for vaccine development, support for state and local governments and assistance for businesses effected by the coronavirus, as well as “fair and reasonable” price protections for vaccines and diagnostics. In order to allow Medicaid providers to deliver telehealth services to patients around the country, it also includes a waiver on certain Medicare telehealth restrictions.
The funding package includes:
- Small Business Disaster Loans –$1 billion in loan subsidies to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture producers, and nonprofit organizations impacted by coronavirus.
- Support for State and Local Health Department – $2.2 billion to support federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus.
- Support for Vaccine and Diagnostic Development – More than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to prevent or treat the effects of coronavirus.
- Funding for Medical Supplies – $500 million for the procurement of pharmaceuticals, masks, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies, which can be distributed to state and local health agencies.
- Support for Rural Health Clinics – $100 million for health services through Community Health Centers, which will support smaller health clinics across the country in under-served urban and rural areas.
Last month, Congresswoman Bustos questioned Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II on the Administration’s efforts to prepare local providers for the coronavirus and address the issue of health care provider shortages across rural America.
Two weeks ago, the Congresswoman pushed Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert Wilkie to ensure the VA is coordinating with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make sure veterans are educated about preventing the coronavirus and how the VA would respond in case there was an outbreak among veterans.
Last week, Congresswoman Bustos raised concerns with CDC Director Robert Redfield over potential provider shortages, particularly in rural areas and heard directly from U.S. Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy about the Army’s plan to address coronavirus concerns on military bases.
Congresswoman Bustos’ physical offices in Washington, Peoria, Rock Island and Rockford closed this week and staff are teleworking. Staff members will continue to serve Illinoisans virtually and via telephone. For any questions, constituents can contact the Congresswoman’s Peoria, Rockford, Rock Island and Washington offices here.