House authorize additional funding to combat coronavirus
WASHINGTON DC – On Friday, the U.S. House passed a broad emergency funding package that would provide economic relief to millions of working Americans and families affected by the widening impact of the coronavirus.
The bill, which passed 363-40, provides more than $50 billion to expand paid leave for workers who don’t receive sick pay from their employers and up to three months’ paid emergency leave throughout the crisis, makes free testing widely available, expands emergency food assistance programs, and emergency unemployment insurance.
“We are taking additional efforts to protect the American public and lessen the economic impact workers and businesses impacted by the virus,” Rep. Al Lawson said.
The legislation includes:
- Paid leave: Establishes an Emergency Paid Leave Program that replaces a significant share of lost wages so that those who take leave to avoid spreading the virus or due to illness or caregiving responsibilities can pay their bills. Also allows 14 days of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave.
- Free testing for coronavirus: Ensures that all individuals, including those with private insurance, Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, VA, FEHBP, and TRICARE, as well as the uninsured, will have access to tests at no cost.
- Enhanced, emergency unemployment measures: Provides states resources and flexibility to provide unemployment benefits to laid off and furloughed workers, as well as to those workers who exhaust their allotted paid leave. This measure also provides additional funding to help the hardest-hit states immediately and in the future if conditions worsen.
- Expanding food assistance programs: Includes more than $1 billion to provide nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women and mothers with young children ($500M), help local food banks ($400M) meet increased demand for low-income Americans during the emergency, and provide home-delivered and congregate meals to low-income seniors ($250M). It also ensures that children who depend on schools’ free and reduce-priced meals continue to have access to nutritious foods in the event of school closures.
- Protects frontline health care workers: Directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard within one month that requires health care facilities to implement comprehensive plans to keep front-line health care workers safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Safeguards Medicaid benefits: Increases the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) that the federal government provides to state and territorial Medicaid programs. This will prevent states from cutting benefits, reducing their Medicaid rolls or imposing greater premium and cost-sharing for enrollees.
The U.S. Senate is expected to take up the bill this week.
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