Package Includes Bennet-Led Colorado Priorities, Boosts Health Care Response, and Provides Urgent Support to Workers, Families, and Businesses
Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the statement below following Senate passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion plan to fight the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and help Americans weather the economic fallout of the crisis. The package is the result of bipartisan negotiations with the Trump Administration and relentless efforts by Bennet and Senate Democrats to strengthen the inadequate initial bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put forward. The package passed in the Senate today significantly improves McConnell’s partisan bill with a $150 billion “Marshall Plan” for America’s hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic, stronger direct payments to Americans, a historic expansion of unemployment benefits, and immediate support for state and local governments, America’s small businesses, and nonprofits of all sizes.
“The public health and economic crisis we face is unlike any in living memory, and it demands extraordinary action to protect millions of Americans at risk of losing their jobs, incomes, and businesses through no fault of their own. Today’s bipartisan agreement is a major step toward addressing the unprecedented scope of this crisis and the need for urgent action to support American workers and families. The extra time taken to get this right resulted in a much better final product.
“The bipartisan agreement features provisions that we fought hard to secure, including a significantly larger commitment to our frontline health care workers and hospitals, historic expansions of unemployment benefits to support our workers, increased support for small businesses, direct assistance to the most vulnerable Americans, and much stronger transparency and accountability.
“Today’s agreement, however, is not the end of our responsibility. In the weeks ahead, we must continue working to support families, keep small businesses afloat, and ensure that our health care workers have everything they need to overcome this pandemic, as we most surely will.
“I am grateful to everyone who set aside politics and rose to our nation’s moment of need.”
While McConnell held show-votes on his partisan bill, Bennet worked behind-the-scenes with his colleagues and the administration to hammer out bipartisan solutions to ensure the priorities of the American people are included in our nation’s public health and economic response to the coronavirus crisis. A summary of the major improvements made to the legislation by Bennet and others as a result of the bipartisan negotiations with the administration is available HERE.
Bennet fought tirelessly to secure Colorado’s priorities in the final package. Colorado priorities included in the package include:
- Direct Cash Payments: Bennet led the charge for large, direct economic support payments, and the CARES Act provides the full $1,200 payment to all Americans below the income caps and $500 per child. The typical family of four will receive $3,400.
- Funding to Boost Production and Acquisition of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Medical Supplies: Bennet led the entire Senate Democratic Caucus in calling on President Trump to immediately invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to meet national supply shortages. He also called for action on the Senate floor. The CARES Act allocates $1 billion for the DPA, allowing the Department of Defense to invest in manufacturing capabilities to produce PPE and medical equipment. Funding throughout the bill will support production and acquisition of such supplies and equipment through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the Strategic National Stockpile. FEMA will also use part of their new funding for medical supply and equipment acquisition.
- Funding for Telehealth Services: Bennet urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to issue necessary guidance for Colorado to take advantage of the expanded Medicare telehealth services that were secured in the first coronavirus funding package. Bennet also urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to increase support for telehealth to expand access to care while limiting in-person visits wherever possible to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. The CARES Act provides $200 million to the FCC for a telehealth pilot program. The bill also provides greater telehealth flexibility to community health centers and rural health clinics. Money throughout the bill will support utilization of telehealth for home dialysis, hospice care, and homes health services, and telehealth use by agencies like Indian Health Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Funding to Sustain Rural Hospitals and Providers: Bennet introduced the bipartisan Immediate Relief for Rural Facilities and Providers Act that would extend a lifeline to rural hospitals and providers and the 60 million Americans who depend on them for health care. Across the country, rural hospitals, independent physician practices, ambulatory surgery centers, and other outpatient facilities play a critical role treating cancer, chronic diseases, and other pressing health conditions. Despite these vital services, many rural providers have been forced to close or to dramatically reduce operations, damaging the health and economies of our rural communities. On top of a $100 billion “Marshall Plan” to reimburse COVID-19 costs to hospitals, the CARES Act ensures that hospitals can request up to 6 months of advanced, accelerated payments equal to 100% of prior reimbursement or lost revenue (or 125% for rural critical access hospitals). It also lifts the Medicare sequester and increases Medicare reimbursement by 20% for coronavirus services.
- Increased Funding for Schools and School Employees: The CARES Act includes funding that Bennet called for to support schools and school employees working overtime to support their communities during this crisis. $13.5 billion is available for states to use through formula grants to compensate school employees, to purchase sanitation and cleaning supplies for schools, to plan and coordinate during long-term school closures, and to defray the cost of technology needed for distance learning.
- Expanded Unemployment Insurance (UI): Bennet unveiled a sweeping proposal to strengthen and modernize unemployment insurance by expanding eligibility for regular UI and standardizing the amount received across states. The CARES Act expands UI to cover the self-employed, independent contractors, and gig workers, and adds a substantial increase to every recipient’s weekly benefit.
- Funding to Bring Stranded Americans Home: Bennet called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to establish a task force dedicated to bringing Americans stranded overseas home and on Senate appropriators to secure the funding necessary to do so. The CARES Act includes $324 million for Diplomatic Programs, which will bolster repatriation efforts and the State Department’s Bureau of Medical Services.
- Cybersecurity Funding: After reports of cyberactivity on Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) networks, Bennet wrote to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at the Department of Homeland Security to urge action in response to the cyber incident. The CARES Act includes $9 million for CISA to conduct supply chain analysis and for impacted critical infrastructure coordination.
- Colorado National Guard Funding: Bennet, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, and members of the Colorado Congressional Delegation urged President Trump to provide additional funding for the Colorado National Guard as they work to respond to statewide incidents related to the preservation of life and property in connection with COVID-19. The CARES Act includes $1.4 billion for National Guard deployments.