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Coronavirus Legislation Tracker

Holding Congress Accountable

March 26, 2020


We will be providing you an update on the relevant bills being introduced in Congress as support among Members begins to coalesce around a bill to respond to the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. We hope this will highlight the important work being done in the public interest, as well as keep you abreast of the impending changes to vital government programs. 

In addition to these bills, we suggest that you check out the good work being done by other organizations and elected officials to incorporate needed provisions in any legislation. 

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), who serves as Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, proposed a coronavirus relief plan with ambitious and necessary stimulus priorities. The Congressional Progressive Caucus Center has put forward a list of progressive demands for any bill responding to the coronavirus. University of Massachusetts-Amherst Economics professor Arindrajit Dube released a creative plan to provide unemployment benefits during the pandemic. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has also released a report on what is needed to respond to the coronavirus’ economic consequences, and the Coalition on Human Needs has convened national organizations under a broader effort to realize a progressive policy vision.

H.R. 6074 - Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act  

SUMMARY: H.R.6074 was the first significant response and appropriations bill signed into law in response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. It was a first step in providing emergency appropriations, and it did so to the tune of $8.3 billion. It was followed up by passage of the Families First Act (see below), and will soon be followed up by a third piece of emergency response legislation. The bill provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding to combat the coronavirus, $7.8 billion of which is in discretionary spending, while the remaining $500 million is mandatory spending on telehealth services. The $7.8 billion goes toward emergency supplemental funding for the United States Health and Human Services Department, and its constitutive agencies, as well as the State Department, U.S. AID (Agency for International Development) and Small Business Administration.

OUR POSITION: Further legislation was always going to be required. For the additional steps necessary to address the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak, see MPAC’s COVID-19 Policy Recommendations

STATUS: Passed into law on 3/04/2020

H.R. 6201 - Families First Coronavirus Response Act  

SUMMARY: The Families First Act was a good first step as an emergency response bill, but must come with additional provisions. Negotiations for next steps are ongoing, so let’s look back at where H.R. 6201 steps up and where it falls short. The bill protects the food security of low-income families through the Student Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program, which was temporarily expanded to cover poor or jobless workers and to provide emergency food allotments for families in need. It also requires health insurance companies to cover the full cost of diagnostic testing for COVID-19, promising to reimburse costs. However, the bill does not offer to cover the costs of care for those actually tested positive with the virus. It also provides emergency transfers to state unemployment insurance (UI) funds so that states can meet the demand for UI benefits necessitated by coronavirus-related layoffs. Ultimately, states can do with these funds what they wish.

OUR POSITION: MPAC commends Congress for agreeing to a deal here, but underscores the dire importance of agreeing to a third piece of legislation which extends paid leave and unemployment assistance to the remainder of the workforce, covers treatment of COVID-19, and creates lasting relief institutions so that workers are covered in the event of future crises. Please refer to our COVID-19 Policy Recommendations for the remainder of our suggestions for future bills. 

STATUS: Passed into Law on 03/18/2020.  

S.3548 - CARES Act 

UPDATED: The new version of the Senate CARES Act is a bipartisan agreement containing significant improvements to the bill drafted late last week (detailed below). This current iteration allotted over $100 billion to expand healthcare capacity, production, and emergency preparedness, what Senator Chuck Schumer has been aspirationally calling “a Marshall Plan for our health care system.” The CARES Act also allotted $1 billion to streamline private sector production under the Defense Production Act, as well as over $7 billion for efforts to prevent eviction and support affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs. It includes $850 million in grants for state and local law enforcement and jails with which they can purchase protective equipment, medical supplies, and overtime. It also provides $1.32 billion in supplemental funding to community health centers and over $150 billion to go toward a state, tribal, and local coronavirus relief fund. It explicitly says that all COVID-19 testing is to be covered by private insurance plans, and that vaccines are to be covered as well. 

Prior to the agreement being put in place, we recommended that the federal government extend universal paid sick and emergency medical leave to all employees, direct cash payments to all Americans, and significantly expand unemployment assistance programs in terms of eligibility and resources. The CARES Act provides for an increase in the maximum unemployment benefit one can receive by $600 per week, and ensures that laid-off workers receive their full pay for, on average, four months. However, this provision expires at the end of June, falls short of some of the UI improvements policymakers have been advocating, and does not extend UI benefits to immigrant workers. It only allows an employee access to paid family and medical leave in certain instances — and only if they were rehired by their employer after being laid off on or after March 1, 2020. The bill does create a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to provide unemployment benefits to self-employed and contract workers who are otherwise ineligible for UI, but does not provide much of an expansion to current paid sick leave and emergency medical leave programs. It does extend a special benefit to federal contractors, allowing them to continue to get paid throughout the health crisis even if the nature of their work prohibits them from actually working.

ANALYSIS: Originally introduced and defeated in the Senate on March 21, 2020. The “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security” (CARES) Act, built off of the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act (H.R.748), was the Senate Republicans’ initial offer of legislation to address the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus. It would have provided mortgage relief to property owners, but not a moratorium or suspension on rent payments. It would have offered bailouts to several large-scale industries, but scant relief to working-class individuals and families. It would have created a $500 billion business relief program controlled by the Trump Treasury Department, with tens of billions of dollars earmarked for large-scale industries and national security sectors, but no regulations or oversight conditions on those companies. 

OUR POSITION: MPAC opposed the early iteration of the bill. It did not include immediate relief to workers in line with the provisions highlighted in our COVID-19 Policy Recommendations, nor did it provide sufficient investment in healthcare infrastructure. The new piece of legislation makes good on these, but still falls short in crucial respects. We support passage of the bill, and implore other organizations to join us in fighting for additional legislation.

STATUS: Passed in the Senate (96-0). It will go to the House on Friday, where it is expected to pass as well. The House had introduced their own piece of legislation, which ultimately did not secure the support required for it to be viable. 

S.3415 - P.A.I.D. Leave Act

SUMMARY: The introduction of S.3415, the Providing Americans Insured Days of Leave (PAID Leave) Act, followed the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act (see above). The PAID Leave Act closed some of the gaps in the Families First Act, namely its expansion of federally guaranteed sick leave to include 14 paid sick days and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, as well as its provision of reimbursement to all employers who offered paid sick days and paid leave in 2020 and 2021. It also called for the establishment of a paid family and medical leave program as it was articulated in the FAMILY Act, introduced in the Senate by Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and House by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

OUR POSITION: MPAC supports the bill, and implores members of Congress to go further, hewing closer to the recommendations we outline here.

STATUS: Introduced in the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

HR: Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act

MPAC Analysis forthcoming.


 

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