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Cartwright Statement in Support of Third COVID-19 Relief Package Passed by House

Mar 27, 2020
Press Release
Cartwright Worked to Ensure Bill Included Strong Support for Health Care Workers, Families, Seniors; Sweeping $2 Trillion Package Invests Billions in State/Local Response Efforts, Provides Direct Cash Payments for Working Americans, Seniors on Social Security

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) today submitted an official statement for the Congressional Record outlining his support for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the third coronavirus relief package put forward by Congress, which passed the House today. It passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, so it now advances to the president for signature. Cartwright issued this statement as he continues his quarantine by order of his physician after his possible exposure to COVID-19.

“From the very start of this unprecedented public health and economic emergency, my number-one priority has been to put relief for our nation’s workers, families, and seniors first. After intense negotiation, this historic $2 trillion stimulus now takes a monumental step in that direction,” Rep. Cartwright writes in his official statement. “Like any compromise, this bill is far from perfect. Still, the investments that the House has made today will go a long way toward delivering swift, meaningful relief to Americans, during this challenging time.”

The full statement can be viewed here and further below.

Here are just a few of the numerous initiatives in this historic piece of legislation that will benefit Pennsylvanians:

  • Immediate Direct Cash Payments to Lower- and Middle-Income Americans: Provides for immediate, direct cash payments to lower-and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child, beginning to phase out at an annual income of $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a household. These payments will provide individuals with the cash they need right now to survive with much of the economy currently shut down. Thanks to Democrats’ efforts, seniors who rely solely on social security for their income will also receive payments. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the payments will be distributed within the next three weeks.
  • State and Local Coronavirus Relief Fund: Creates a $150 billion State and Local Coronavirus Relief Fund, nearly $5 billion of which will go to Pennsylvania to bolster our statewide efforts to fight this pandemic.
  • $260 Billion in Dramatically Expanded Unemployment Benefits: Provides an additional $600 per week for the next four months as well as an additional 13 weeks of federally funded benefits; expands eligibility to include self-employed and “gig” economy workers.
  • More Than $375 Billion in Small Business Relief:  Provides more than $375 billion in small business relief, including $349 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees and keep them on the payroll; $17 billion for debt relief for current and new Small Business Administration (SBA) borrowers; and $10 billion in immediate disaster grants.
  • Approximately $150 Billion for Our Hospitals, Health Care Workers, and Health Research: Provides an investment of about $150 billion in our hospitals, health systems, and health research, including expanding funding for the personal protective equipment (PPE) desperately needed by our health care workers, including ventilators, n95 masks, gowns and gloves, among other essential equipment.

More Than $100 Billion in Additional Emergency Appropriations, Including the Following:

  • HUD Emergency Solution Grants:  Provides $2 billion for HUD Emergency Solution Grants to states that will be distributed by formula. These grants are designed to address the impact of the coronavirus among individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and to support additional homeless assistance, prevention, and eviction prevention assistance. Pennsylvania will receive over $112 million.
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant: Supports child care and early education by providing $3.5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. Our state will receive over $105 million under this emergency appropriation.
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): Provides $900 million to help low-income families pay their heating and cooling bills. Pennsylvania will receive more than $15 million for this purpose during this public health emergency.
  • Byrne-Justice Assistance Grant Program: Provides $850 million for this program, giving additional support to state and local law enforcement agencies, thereby allowing them, for example, to obtain the personal protective equipment and other medical items they may need during this public health emergency. Pennsylvania will receive $28 million under this appropriation.
  • CDC Coronavirus State, Local and Tribal Grants Minimum Awards: Provides about $750 million in CDC State, Local and Tribal Grants Minimum Awards to help agencies cope with the public health emergency. The minimum award for our state is over $18 million. In addition, states can apply for additional funds above their minimum award, based on their needs.

This third package builds on two House-led bills Cartwright helped craft as a member of the House Appropriations Committee:

  • An $8.3 billion emergency funding package (H.R. 6074) for preparedness, prevention and more, and
  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), to help families stay healthy and make ends meet during the crisis.

From the beginning of the Congressional coronavirus response, Cartwright and House and Senate Democrats have worked to make sure the relief packages prioritize relief for those who are most at risk during this crisis, both from a health and an economic standpoint. That includes workers, families, small businesses, and vulnerable older adults.

For this reason, Democrats insisted on overhauling Senate Republicans’ initial proposal because it put the interests of huge corporations over everyday Americans. Among the major problems with the original bill were a $500 billion slush fund for corporate bailouts without any oversight. It would have allowed the U.S. Treasury Department to bail out major corporations at their own discretion, and without having to tell the public which corporations received the funds and how much they received.

The original proposal also failed to provide any additional financial support for seniors who rely solely on social security for their income, or for state and local governments that have largely been propping up local health systems on their own.

As a result of the negotiations, Democrats secured hard-won improvements to put workers and families first during this public health emergency.

Democrats also eliminated provisions in the initial bill proposed by Senate Republicans allowing secret bailouts of huge corporations by the U.S. Treasury Department and added special oversight requirements, including:

  • Prohibition of stock buybacks for any company receiving a government loan from the bill for the term of the government assistance plus 1 year on; and
  • Robust worker protections attached to all federal loans for businesses.

Cartwright’s full statement for the Congressional Record in support of the CARES Act:

I deeply regret that I was unable to be present at today’s vote, and so submit this statement for the record in order to officially express my support for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Had I not been under physician orders to self-quarantine, after coming into contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19, I would have proudly cast my vote in favor of this legislation. From the very start of this unprecedented public health and economic emergency, my number-one priority has been to put relief for our nation’s workers, families, and seniors first. After intense negotiation, this historic $2 trillion stimulus now takes a monumental step in that direction.

As the coronavirus continues to gain a foothold in the United States, workers face increasing uncertainty. Last week, the number of unemployment claims filed reached a record high, and those numbers are expected to only grow. The legislation that the House passed today offers much needed stability and peace of mind for American workers, by dramatically expanding our unemployment insurance program. As a result, jobless workers will see an increase of $600 per week in their unemployment benefits for a period of four months, as well as an extension of regular unemployment benefits by 13 weeks. Moreover, for the first time in history, independent contractors, gig workers, and self-employed individuals will be universally eligible to collect unemployment benefits.

As with our public health response, Congress recognizes the centrality of prevention to our nation’s economic response. Blunting the impact of this pandemic and necessary social distancing on workers will require not only that we strengthen the social safety net, but that we also provide robust assistance to America’s economic backbone: small businesses. Over the past week, Democrats have fiercely negotiated for enhanced relief for small businesses, and in the end we were able to secure $377 billion in funding. These loans and grants will help small businesses continue to make payroll and rent payments, and ultimately, keep workers employed.

From day one, we’ve understood that limiting economic fallout from coronavirus requires a multi-pronged approach. The direct payments, under this bill, will quickly inject cash into the pockets of American workers, families, and seniors, so that they can continue to make ends meet. While I would have liked to have seen even more generous payments go to our low- and middle-income Americans, I am nevertheless pleased with this start.

Finally, I am extremely grateful that Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to direct more than $150 billion to our hospitals and health care system. Anything less would have been shortsighted, and would have represented a grave failing on Congress’s part. Now, hospitals will have the resources needed to increase surge capacity. In addition, these funds will go towards supporting COVID-19 medical research and providing frontline health care workers with personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other critically-needed medical supplies. If we hope to slow the spread of this virus, save American lives—including those of our heroic frontline health care workers—, and help restore normalcy to our lives and economy, we must equip our health care system with the resources it needs to operate effectively. Over the coming months, it will be imperative that Congress continues to invest in the health care infrastructure.

Like any compromise, this bill is far from perfect. Still, the investments that the House has made today will go a long way toward delivering swift, meaningful relief to Americans, during this challenging time. Going forward, I will continue to push for further investment in our hard-hit communities. I am under no misconceptions that our work combating this pandemic is done.  In the meantime, particularly in this era of sharp partisan division, I hope today’s uniquely bipartisan effort will serve as a comforting reminder to the American people of their government’s ability to come together in times of crisis to put them first.