U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said the nearly $2 trillion Senate coronavirus deal approved late Wednesday will speed up assistance to health care providers in Minnesota and across the country in order to deal with the coming surge in cases, and help hard-hit Minnesota families, workers, and small businesses deal with the fallout.
Sen. Smith said she will push hard to get it signed by the President and get the assistance out to states as quickly as possible.
“We are facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis in the coronavirus pandemic. With this bipartisan legislation, help is on the way. This legislation will provide significant and urgently needed help for our health care system, families and small businesses,” said Sen. Smith. “Minnesotans are coming together to respond to this economic and public health catastrophe. With this legislation, families will see direct financial help, local businesses will find a lifeline, and our heroic health care workers will know we have their backs. This pandemic will touch all of us, and this bipartisan agreement is a major step forward in our country’s response. There will be more work to do, and I’ll keep working to get help to people as quickly as possible.”
Highlights of the bill
-The bill would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.
-A huge cash infusion for hospitals expecting a flood of COVID-19 patients grew during the talks to an estimated $130 billion. Another $45 billion would fund additional relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for local response efforts and community services.
-Democrats said the package would help replace the salaries of furloughed workers for four months, rather than the three months first proposed. Furloughed workers would get whatever amount a state usually provides for unemployment, plus a $600 per week add-on, with gig workers like Uber drivers covered for the first time.
-Businesses controlled by members of Congress and top administration officials — including Trump and his immediate family members — would be ineligible for the bill’s business assistance.
Overview of Relief Package
The relief package passed by the Senate on Wednesday would help immediately bolster the health care response and our economy, including:
- Extended and expanded unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to help more workers;
- Forgivable loans to small businesses and non-profits to help them maintain workers and help pay for rent, mortgages, and utilities;
- Historic benefit of over $100 billion to hospitals and other health care providers to help them more effectively prepare and respond to the coronavirus crisis;
- Medicare payment increases to hospitals and providers to ensure they receive immediate funding to manage this crisis;
- New investments in the Strategic National Stockpile, personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital surge capacity, and medical research into COVID-19.
- Worker and transparency protections on government loans.
Senate Agreement is Third Measure to Respond to Pandemic
Sen. Smith said the bipartisan package is the third measure to respond to the pandemic. Earlier this month, two packages were signed into law:
- On March 5, Congress passed a bipartisan $8.3 billion emergency funding package to deliver an initial response to the crisis. Among other things, Minnesota is expected to receive approximately $10 million for its public health response.
- On March 18, Congress overwhelmingly passed a second bipartisan package to provide paid sick and family leave, expand Medicaid, unemployment and nutrition assistance. The measure included Sen. Smith’s bill to ensure testing for the virus is completely free.
Senator Smith’s Legislation Included in Package
The Senate-passed relief package includes provisions authored and championed by Sen. Smith, including:
- The Rapid Coverage of Preventive Services and Vaccines for Coronavirus Act, a bipartisan bill Sen. Smith helped introduce to require private health insurance plans to promptly cover vaccines for COVID-19 when they become available without cost sharing.
- Sen. Smith’s bipartisan The Mitigating Emerging Drug Shortages Act, which would help prevent drug shortages.
- The Commission on America’s Medical Security Act, a bipartisan bill that Sen. Smith helped introduce to safeguard America’s medical supply chain and address shortages due to U.S. dependence on foreign-made medical equipment.
- Sen. Smith fought to extend funding for Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs). There are 6 CCBHCs with federal funding in Minnesota.
- The package includes two bipartisan pieces of legislation Sen. Smith introduced to reauthorize rural and telehealth grant programs.
Sen. Smith fought to secure $8 billion to help tribes cover the costs of unexpected expenses due to coronavirus, $100 million for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and $20 million for nutrition programs for Native elders. Sen. Smith also helped secure $1 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS), which includes $125 million for IHS facilities to improve capacity limitations at clinics and hospitals, build emergency triage units or medical tents, and increase ICU capacity.
Sen. Smith fought to secure $3.5 billion in additional funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant to provide child care assistance to health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other workers deemed essential during the response to the coronavirus.