Congressman Paul D. Tonko cheered the House advancement of the bipartisan H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The $2 trillion package would provide a more secure safety net for Americans, small businesses and regional municipalities to address the health and economic impacts of coronavirus.
"The coronavirus outbreak has placed and unimaginable burden on the shoulders of Americans, whose economic security, as well as physical and mental health are under serious threat," Congressman Tonko said. "Our nation needs a response that puts money in the pockets of those who need it most and provides essential support for our health care workers on the frontlines of this pandemic. The supplemental offers stability and hope for the millions whose lives have changed in the blink of an eye. As our country continues to feel impacts of coronavirus, we in the House promise to continue working to ensure that, through every step of this public health emergency, we put the needs of American families, workers and small businesses first. With so much at stake, we cannot afford to fail."
Tonko fought to include a number of provisions that would give assistance to those most in need. In a bipartisan letter to Speaker Pelosi that Tonko led, he called for the coronavirus package to address the mental health impacts of the outbreak and, as a result, this legislation includes $425 million for emergency mental health and substance use services including $50 million for suicide prevention programs. He worked to provide a $900 million provision for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help lower income households pay their utility bills. He also fought for treatment of respiratory protective devices as covered countermeasures which would help guarantee health care workers have access to vital equipment such as masks and respirators. This would make permanent the provision authored by Tonko that was included in the second coronavirus stimulus.
The CARES Act:
Secures a $200 billion investment in hospitals, health systems and health research and $150 billion for state and local governments to give them the resources they desperately need during this emergency.
Invests a massive $260 billion in Unemployment Insurance benefits to match the average paycheck of laid-off or furloughed workers, with an additional 13 weeks of federally-funded benefits to be made available immediately and up to $600 more a week for the next four months for laid-off workers.
Provides immediate direct cash payments to lower and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child, beginning to phase out at an annual income of $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a household.
Establishes a $377 billion infusion of fast relief for small businesses, including $350 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees and keep them on the payroll; $17 billion for debt relief for current and new SBA borrowers; and $10 billion in immediate disaster grants.
Secures more than $30 billion in emergency education funding to help with distance learning while also eliminating federal student loan repayments through September.
Eliminates secret bailouts and adds special oversight requirements, including reports to Congress every 30 days, for American companies that receive assistance through the Act in order to ensure they are protecting workers.