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Blunt Outlines Relief Measures for Families, Workers, & Businesses in Coronavirus Response Bill

“Let’s do what the American people expect us to do and treat an emergency like it’s an emergency, not like it’s an opportunity.”

March 24, 2020

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, called on his Democrat colleagues to support the third phase of coronavirus response legislation, the CARES Act, which has been introduced in the Senate. Blunt outlined specific provisions in the bill that would provide immediate relief to individuals and families, small businesses, and health care providers. 
Following are Excerpts of  Blunt’s Remarks Regarding Relief Measures For:
Families and Individuals:
“First of all, we have to create a way that people see immediate cash assistance coming. People that have expenses that they didn't have before, either health care expenses they didn't have before or child care expenses they didn't have before or other kinds of expenses. In many cases we're going to, more and more, see people that have either new or current expenses and they don't have the income they had before.
“Now, under this bill, a typical middle-class family of four would get somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000 to $4,000 sometime in the early days of April. We'll immediately begin to talk about whether or not that needs to be repeated again as the summer progresses, but that's not the point right now. The point is what happens two and three weeks from now. This bill will and should provide emergency funds for food and nutrition programs. It will create a Temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program to give assistance to workers who normally wouldn't be eligible for unployment yet or wouldn’t be eligible at a rate that would sustain the expenses of their family. This would include an additional $600 a week for every recipient of unemployment for the next three weeks. By the time we're done, it might be longer than three weeks, but the goal here is to get money into the hands of families and more importantly, let them know that that money is on the way.”
Small Businesses:
“We need to help small businesses. Small businesses who are in many cases being told they have to close their business. Restaurants, other retail businesses have been told by governors in several states, you have to close your business. You can't be in that business. If you're in the restaurant business, you might still be open to have a business but it's no longer the business you used to have where people come in and sit down and order or come in and order and then sit down, where the staffing is different, where people are going on the unemployment lines and the unemployment rolls. And part of the goal of this legislation is to see that that doesn't happen, to make loans available to small business people, and one of the possible ways to satisfy that loan is just to keep your employees in place as part of your employee structure for as long as you can.
“In Missouri we have 532,000 small businesses. More than 99% of our businesses in Missouri would qualify to meet that small business standard. Now, it's difficult enough to run a small business in the best of times, but these circumstances certainly don't allow us to look at these as the best of times. This legislation would provide money to be sure that workers kept those jobs. It's easier to bring somebody back to work than it is to hire somebody back to work. It's easier if we can keep those employees and others in place. In fact, at the big business level, I think one of the criteria for some of the potential programs would be that you have to keep your employees in place through, maybe in case of airlines, I hear it could be as long as sometime in September. And hopefully by September that business has recovered to the point that it's not a hardship to keep those businesses in place. …
“But starting with small businesses, looking at all businesses, using loans to cover payroll costs, using loans to cover interest on your mortgage if you're a small business person or rent or utilities, using those loans in a way that clearly just do the things that you would do if you had your normal level of cash flow. That is not there now. Every day we wait makes it harder for a small business or any business who's trying to decide ‘can I keep these people on the payroll any longer or is the only thing I have a choice to do, to put them on the unemployment roll?’ And every day we wait, more businesses are making that decision. More small businesses -- remember, no income coming in, all your money is going out, you have nothing but a vague promise that the Congress is trying to do something about this. People getting let go every single day.
“There are more people out of work today than were out of work on Monday morning. There will be more people out of work tomorrow than there are today. We can have a positive impact on that if we'll just act in a way that helps them keep their doors open when there's any business to be had, to keep their people on the payroll, the people that work for them on the payroll.”
Patients and Healthcare Providers:
“And then we need to do things in this bill that support health care workers and health care providers.
“This bill would make sure, I think in any form it is taking at this moment, certainly the health care part that I’ve worked on as the chairman of that subcommittee, that testing for coronavirus is going to be paid for. It's going to be paid for by Medicare. It's going to be paid for by Medicaid. It's going to be paid for by private insurance. The hospitals get relief in terms of the payments they're supposed to make, the regulatory relief that they need to have as they're trying to adapt into a new situation. Hospitals getting more flexibility to do more telehealth services. We already put that bill in bill number two. We're trying to further refine it here in this bill, bill number three.
“The one thing that particularly has resonance in this moment is telehealth. If you're telling people don't go to the hospital unless your doctor tells you you have to go to the hospital, don't go to the emergency room as your first place to go, find a doctor to talk to. … Telehealth allows you to not only talk to a doctor, but also have that doctor looking at you and you looking at them as you talk to each other.
“We need to be sure that doctors have what we're now all calling the personal protective equipment, the PPEs, a term six months ago I’m not sure I would have recognized. Maybe not six weeks ago but it's very much part of this discussion. As a matter of fact, it's one of the reasons that hospitals are being told not to do elective surgery. … But if people had plenty of equipment, there would be no reason that those surgeries weren't happening. But those surgeries aren't happening to be sure you've got the protective equipment you need when the coronavirus hits your community. We need to figure out how to cut down the need for that equipment by expanding, again, telehealth, by not encouraging people to take a test that don't need to take a test because every one of those tests requires a pair of gloves, a unique mask, maybe, with some frequency, different protective equipment. We're trying to figure out how to do all of that.”   

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