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.