As a constituent of Senator Jeff Merkley, I'm signed up for his e-newsletter to get the most up-to-date information about his work in DC - here's that latest re: COVID-19
I hope you, your family, and your loved ones are taking good care during this frightening and challenging time -- and please know that as your representative in the U.S. Senate, I’ve been doing everything I can to fight for the resources our state, businesses, and families need to aggressively tackle the coronavirus and survive the economic downturn.
Today, I’m pleased to share that the Senate has passed its third coronavirus emergency relief bill, which was designed to focus on the economic impacts the virus is having on communities across America.
I’ve been talking regularly to small business owners and workers in Oregon who are facing an economic abyss caused by this pandemic. I am deeply grateful for the valuable insights and experiences that they have shared -- concerns and ideas that I fought to incorporate and address in the Senate’s $2 trillion bill. While this bill, which is headed to the House of Representatives and then to the President’s desk, involved a lot of compromises, it does include a host of important provisions that could help Oregon get through this crisis.
While many of the details of how these programs will roll out are still to come, I wanted to highlight some that may help address a number of the concerns you all have raised with me over the last few weeks. And I will continue making more information available as these provisions are implemented.
First, the bill provides $349 billion in fully forgivable loans to small businesses, the self-employed, independent contractors, and non-profits with fewer than 500 employees. These loans, to be available through banks or directly from the Small Business Administration, will be guaranteed by the government so borrowers are not required to put up their own money in this uncertain time. Provided small businesses use the funds for personnel expenses, rent or mortgage, or utilities and continue paying their employees, the SBA will fully forgive the loan.
For people who have lost their jobs or seen their incomes fall, the bill increases unemployment insurance benefits by $600 per week, enough to replace the average worker’s full paycheck. It also temporarily extends unemployment insurance for the first time to gig workers, people who are self-employed, and part-time workers, and also extends unemployment insurance benefits by an additional 13 weeks. In addition, most working and middle-class Americans will receive emergency checks of $1200 per adult and $500 per child.
This legislation will also make $150 billion available to state, local, and tribal governments to maintain health, education, and other services in the face of collapsing tax revenue. It provides over $30 billion for local school systems and colleges and universities to continue to educate students, and affordable housing and homeless assistance programs will be granted $7 billion to help the hardest hit Americans keep roofs over their heads. The bill also recognizes that the health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other essential workers who work hard to keep us safe are juggling their own family responsibilities -- and provides states with $3.5 billion to provide these Americans with child care assistance.
And critically, the bill provides $150 billion to help hospitals and health care providers meet the surge in coronavirus cases as they work to keep Americans healthy. It also includes my bill with Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) to support and train nurses, who are at the forefront of our health care system always, and especially in this pandemic.
As we continue to battle this public health crisis, we can’t forget that any choice between our lives and our livelihoods is a false choice, because we can’t have one without the other. I’m going to keep fighting for an aggressive approach that will protect our health, our jobs, and our businesses, and provide the health care workers at the frontlines of this crisis with the tools they need to fight this pandemic.
In the coming days I will do my best to keep all Oregonians informed as these efforts to respond to the crisis begin to be implemented. Please visit merkley.senate.gov/coronavirus for more details and regular updates.
In the meantime, please keep washing your hands and staying home as much as you can. Together, we can flatten this curve and save lives.
All my best,