COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
COVID-19 (Coronavirus; CDC graphic)

With so much chang­ing so fast, it’s already once again time for a anoth­er install­ment of of our spe­cial series COVID-19 Update, bring­ing you the lat­est devel­op­ments on the nov­el coro­n­avirus out­break that pub­lic health author­i­ties here and through­out the coun­try are work­ing dili­gent­ly to mitigate.

Unlike some of the non­sense that is unfor­tu­nate­ly cir­cu­lat­ing on social media, all the infor­ma­tion you’ll find here is accu­rate and vetted.

A short time ago, the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives took action on H.R. 6201, the final ver­sion of the Fam­i­lies First Coro­n­avirus Response Act agreed to by Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi and Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin (on behalf of his boss, Don­ald Trump). In a big bipar­ti­san vote of three hun­dred and six­ty-three to forty — with all of the nay votes sup­plied by Repub­li­cans — the House sent the mea­sure over to the Sen­ate, which plans to con­sid­er it ear­ly next week.

The bill stip­u­lates that any­one who needs to be test­ed for coro­n­avirus shall be test­ed at no cost to them. Prami­la Jaya­pal’s office says it also includes:

  • paid emer­gency leave with two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid fam­i­ly and med­ical leave;
  • enhanced unem­ploy­ment insur­ance, a step that will extend pro­tec­tions to fur­loughed workers;
  • strength­ened nutri­tion secu­ri­ty ini­tia­tives, includ­ing Sup­ple­men­tal Nutri­tion Assis­tance Pro­gram (SNAP), stu­dent meals, seniors’ nutri­tion and food banks; and increased fed­er­al funds for Med­ic­aid to sup­port our local, state, trib­al and ter­ri­to­r­i­al gov­ern­ments and health systems.

The bill “builds on the bipar­ti­san $8.3 bil­lion emer­gency coro­n­avirus spend­ing pack­age Con­gress signed into law on March 6th,” Jaya­pal’s office said. “That pack­age – con­sist­ing entire­ly of new funds – includ­ed sup­port for state and local health agen­cies, vac­cine and treat­ment devel­op­ment, and loans for affect­ed small busi­ness­es to lessen the eco­nom­ic blow of this pub­lic health emergency.”

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as follows:

Vot­ing Aye: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, Den­ny Heck (WA), Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrad­er (OR); Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler, Dan New­house, Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers (WA), Greg Walden (OR), Greg Gian­forte (MT), Mike Simp­son (ID)

Vot­ing Nay: Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Russ Fulcher (ID)

Not Vot­ing: Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Don Young (AK)

The heart­less and mil­i­tant Repub­li­can Russ Fulcher of Ida­ho was the only rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the region to inde­fen­si­bly vote against the bill.

“I am very proud to write that the pro­vi­sions we put forth with your input, includ­ing paid sick leave, paid fam­i­ly and med­ical leave, enhanced Unem­ploy­ment Insur­ance, food secu­ri­ty ini­tia­tives and free and wide­spread test­ing, are all includ­ed in this agree­ment,” Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi told col­leagues before the vote.

“The eco­nom­ic impacts of the coro­n­avirus out­break have been dev­as­tat­ing to work­ing fam­i­lies across the coun­try,” said U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Smith.

“Amer­i­cans des­per­ate­ly need relief right now and the Fam­i­lies First Coro­n­avirus Response Act is a strong start toward deliv­er­ing just that.”

“We must not for­get our most impor­tant job: pro­tect­ing the health and safe­ty of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Smith declared. “They need and deserve free coro­n­avirus test­ing, paid sick leave, enhanced unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits, expand­ed food assis­tance pro­grams, and addi­tion­al fund­ing for states, local juris­dic­tions, and health sys­tems respond­ing to the outbreak.”

“This bill pro­vides free coro­n­avirus test­ing to all indi­vid­u­als who need a test, regard­less of whether they are insured or uninsured.”

“Addi­tion­al­ly, we also increase fed­er­al funds for Med­ic­aid to sup­port the state and local gov­ern­ments and health sys­tems that have already expend­ed sig­nif­i­cant resources respond­ing to this crisis.

“It is imper­a­tive that we sup­port those who expe­ri­ence finan­cial bur­dens dur­ing this health cri­sis. The bill estab­lish­es two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid fam­i­ly and med­ical leave. It also strength­ens food assis­tance pro­grams to help keep food on the table for chil­dren, fam­i­lies, and seniors.”

“The Act is a crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant step by Con­gress to sup­port our abil­i­ty to respond to this cri­sis, but it can­not be the last action Con­gress takes. More sup­port is clear­ly need­ed to pro­tect our pub­lic health, and we must expe­dite the deliv­ery of med­ical sup­plies and test kits, alle­vi­ate the stress put on our health care sys­tem, and mit­i­gate against the eco­nom­ic impacts of the crisis.”

“Wash­ing­ton state is at the epi­cen­ter of the spread of COVID-19 in the Unit­ed States, and des­per­ate­ly needs imme­di­ate help from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment,” said Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Prami­la Jaya­pal. “My num­ber one pri­or­i­ty is to ensure Con­gress is doing every­thing we can to pro­vide crit­i­cal resources to the front­line pub­lic health experts, health care work­ers and first respon­ders, and sup­port work­ing peo­ple and fam­i­lies most impact­ed by this pub­lic health emergency.”

“We are in the mid­dle of a glob­al pan­dem­ic and this pack­age can­not be the last,” Jaya­pal warned. “Con­gress must con­tin­ue respond­ing to emerg­ing needs with great urgency — and con­tin­ue putting sci­ence and tar­get­ed respons­es to help the most vul­ner­a­ble work­ing peo­ple first, espe­cial­ly the needs of hourly work­ers, includ­ing domes­tic work­ers and oth­ers, who sim­ply do not have any safe­ty nets to help them through these dif­fi­cult times.”

NPI con­grat­u­lates the House on approv­ing this leg­is­la­tion. We urge the Sen­ate to swift­ly adopt it so that it can be pre­sent­ed to Trump to be signed into law.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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