Help is on the way

March 27, 2020

I've been working to provide hundreds of thousands of Oregonians relief at a time that they are worried about staying healthy, keeping their job, and paying their bills. An economic stabilization and health care resources package will soon be signed into law. Americans will see necessary relief to stay afloat during this public health crisis.  

This legislation is by no means perfect, nor does it do nearly enough to stop the spread of COVID-19, but it is immeasurably better than the Senate’s initial bill. I strongly supported this legislation today, but it is critical that we start working immediately on the next bill to speed the recovery of our economy and strengthen the healthcare system. Americans need a coordinated, whole-of-government response to provide healthcare and economic security during the coronavirus pandemic.

First and foremost, this is a health crisis. This package provides hundreds of billions of dollars in funding to support America’s healthcare system. In particular, the bill:

  • Creates a $100 billion fund for hospitals and providers hit hardest by the outbreak. These funds can be used to purchase personal protective equipment for health workers, testing supplies, additional equipment to deal with a surge of severely ill patients, and other necessities that hospitals desperately need; 
  • Provides funding for our public health infrastructure, like community health centers, which are necessary to continue to our COIVID-19 response.

The CARES Act of 2020 also includes many of the provisions that I advocated for in my Economic Stabilization Plan, including:

  • Direct cash assistance of $1,200 per individual and $2,400 for married couples, plus $500 per child;
  • Temporarily expanded Unemployment Insurance so that workers affected by COVID-19 and eligible for unemployment compensation—including non-traditional employment like the self-employed and gig workers—receive an extra $600 per week, resulting in weekly benefits that replace 100 percent of wages for the average worker;
  • Nearly $350 billion in forgivable loans and grants to small businesses and non-profits so they can continue to pay their employees and cover other expenses during this crisis, like rent, mortgage payments, or utilities;
  • Access to emergency grants of up to $10,000 for small businesses to provide immediate relief for operating costs once a small business or non-profit has applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. This legislation also creates a new employee retention tax credit for employers to encourage businesses to keep workers on payroll during the crisis;
  • Protection of the integrity of our elections during this pandemic by providing resources to states to increase election accessibility, which could include voting by mail. I am working with Speaker Pelosi to expand upon this language in the next coronavirus legislation to guarantee that every American can do what we do already in Oregon—vote by mail;
  • A fix to a glaring flaw in the Republican bill by adding important restrictions on the federal loan assistance for larger businesses, including a prohibition on excessive executive compensation and stock buybacks and a requirement that the businesses keep workers employed;
  • Key oversight for the assistance to business by appointing an independent Inspector General and Congressional Oversight Panel to closely monitor this program, a marked improvement to the no-strings attached bailout we saw in 2008. I am committed to closely monitoring the program and working with my colleagues to add even more protections in future legislation;
  • Establish important safeguards so that no new money intended to help keep our country safe is diverted to building a wall on the southern border or used to further separate immigrant families;

While this legislation provides more resources for healthcare workers and temporarily stabilizes parts of the economy, it is only one step Congress can take. We must continue working on the next phase of our legislative response. Any future package must have more resources for healthcare workers to effectively stop the spread of COVID-19, long-term economic certainty for workers and families, a permanently strengthened social safety net, and must address the climate crisis head on.

Our work here isn't done, but this is a start. As we embark on the road to recovery and work to flatten the curve, it's important to stay informed and resilient. We will get through this crisis. I am fighting for the needs of Oregonians every step of the way.