03.25.20

Remarks On The Coronavirus Aid, Relief And Economic Security Act

America is at an inflection point.  We are facing a public health crisis unlike any we have seen in generations.  Governments at every level are racing to respond, react, and mitigate the crisis. 

Communities and counties are fearful their hospital systems will be overrun, and needed supplies are unavailable.  States are struggling to support local and state-wide economies that are increasingly hit with store closures and business suspensions. Unfortunately, the federal government – starting with the President – has failed to offer clear leadership to navigate this crisis.

But today marks a turning point, thanks to the leadership the Senate will show by acting on this bipartisan emergency relief package – today, without delay, and without hesitation.

The package before us includes three important pillars.  First, it directs economic assistance for businesses and workers. Second, it provides emergency funding to support our over taxed medical system, which is bracing for a surge in patients as the coronavirus continues to spread.  And finally, it provides critical oversight to ensure that the funding Congress provides goes to the people who need it – not to line the pockets of corporations and executives who continue to benefit from the most generous tax cut in history.

We will provide a massive investment in the Unemployment Insurance program, ensuring that unemployed workers can receive a maximum benefit in this time of economic crisis.  These reforms will also extend unemployment insurance eligibility for an additional 13 weeks, and will allow part-time, self-employed and gig economy workers – who are being hit hard in this crisis – to access benefits.  Importantly, for Americans living paycheck to paycheck, this bill will deliver these benefits to workers sooner. To help the small businesses struggling to keep their doors open, to find a path to reopen on the other end of this pandemic, this bill supports loan forgiveness to small businesses and some non-profits, and provides critical funding to support payments of existing loans to small businesses through the Small Business Administration.

The bill provides $340 billion in emergency appropriations to give new resources to help strained state, local, and tribal governments as they combat this pandemic.  These resources support hospitals and health care workers on the front lines of this public health crisis.  They fund the purchase of personal protective equipment and much needed medical equipment.  The bill supports our law enforcement and first responders; funding for scientists researching treatments and vaccines; support for small businesses; support for local schools and universities; and funding for affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs. The bill will provide immediate relief to farmers in Vermont and across the country who continue to feed our communities during this emergency, with an emphasis on those farmers serving our local food systems.  Importantly, the bill will not permit the transfer of emergency funding to battle COVID-19 to the President’s misguided projects including the border wall.

On top of all this, the bill includes a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund that will provide state, local, and tribal government with additional resources to address this pandemic, all with an important small state minimum to help states like Vermont.

I think of our own Governor, republican Governor, who has worked so hard to help our state. This will give him some tools, as it will to our speaker of the house and our president pro tempore of our legislature.

In Vermont, Governor Scott has made the difficult but prudent decision to restrict state-wide activities only to essential services, we, too, are feeling the impact of the coronavirus.  With over 120 confirmed cases, our small state is already reeling from the economic effects.  I am pleased that the Coronavirus Relief Fund will support states, and that it includes an important small state minimum that will have significant impact in Vermont. 

Through formula grant funding, states will benefit from this package.  In Vermont, that will mean $5.4 million through the CDC’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness program; $4.2 million for assistance through the Community Development Block Grant program; nearly $20 million for public transportation emergency relief; $4.3 million to provide child care assistance to those on the front line of the coronavirus response, including health care workers and first responders; $4.6 million for housing assistance grants; $9.6 million to support the state’s airports; $4 million in LIHEAP assistance; $5 million in Community Services Block Grant funding; $2 million in Byrne-JAG assistance to law enforcement; and $3 million in election security assistance grants.

Finally, this bill includes important oversight and accountability measures that will require this administration to report publicly to the American people.  This is a taxpayer-funded relief bill.  The Executive Branch must be accountable to those taxpayers.  Financial relief to address the coronavirus pandemic should not be turned into a slush fund for a president seeking reelection, with little accountability to the people whose money he is spending.

I urge the Senate to pass this bill today, and I hope the House will swiftly follow.  This is an emergency relief bill.  Congress will need to take further action to provide needed stimulus to our state and local economies, to support our schools, including institutions of higher education, and to support displaced workers who are the fabric of our national workforce.

But with this bill, we provide support to the victims of this terrible virus: the health care providers and first responders on the front lines, the essential workers who are keeping our store shelves stocked and the necessities available, and the families hit by the fallout from this pandemic.

I have been fortunate. I have been married now for almost 58 years to one of the best medical surgical nurses I have ever known.  I hear her tell it like what it is.  Marcelle tells me what the doctors and nurses face in a situation like this.  Mr. President, I pray that neither you nor I, nor any other member of this body will have to face what they face on the front lines of a crisis like this one.  We should go forward and pass this bill and do that today.

Now, we must all heed the call of the medical professionals and experts calling for dramatic but essential action to stop the spread of this virus.  That requires leadership – from this Chamber, and from the President of the United States.  The eyes of the nation will watch how we further manage this crisis.  Now is not the time to waiver in our resolve to do what is in the best interest of the citizens whose interests we are sworn to protect.

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Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693