Package Will Now Head to President’s Desk to be Signed into Law
Denver – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the statement below following House 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 will now head to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
“Right now, Colorado and the country are facing a challenge that’s greater than any since World War II. It’s a massive public health crisis that has precipitated a massive economic crisis. To stop the spread of the coronavirus, we’ve essentially had to stop our economy, and there’s no precedent for this in our history.
“This bill reflects the need for urgent and comprehensive action, including an increase in resources for hospitals and health care providers, fiscal assistance for state and local governments, a historic expansion of unemployment benefits, direct cash payments for the hardest hit Americans, and greater support for our small businesses.
“The challenge before us is enormous, and we must be prepared to respond further if necessary. I will continue to work with Governor Polis, our public health agencies, and Colorado’s Congressional Delegation to ensure that Coloradans across the state have the support they need in these trying times.”
The CARES Act package is the result of bipartisan negotiations with the Trump Administration and relentless efforts by Bennet and Senate Democrats to strengthen the inadequate bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell initially put forward. The package passed in the House 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.
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 include the American people’s priorities in this comprehensive response to the coronavirus crisis. A summary of major improvements to the legislation secured by Bennet and others through negotiations with the Trump Administration is available HERE.
Bennet fought tirelessly to secure Colorado’s priorities in the final package. These 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. 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” for hospitals to reimburse their COVID-19 costs, the CARES Act also allows hospitals to 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.