Senator Disappointed the Agreement Doesn’t Include Flexibility for State, Tribal, and Local Governments to Use Funding Where They See Fit
Denver – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the statement below following Senate passage of the latest bipartisan Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) relief package, a nearly $500 billion plan to support small businesses, hospitals, and testing as Americans continue to weather the economic damage of the virus.
The package is the result of bipartisan negotiations and relentless advocacy from Bennet and Senate Democrats to secure $220 billion in new funding for small businesses through local lenders and community financial institutions, more support for our health care system, including rural and tribal health providers, and a substantial down payment to expand testing nationwide. Bennet expressed disappointment that, despite bipartisan support, the agreement doesn’t include specific funding for rural hospitals or funding for state, tribal, and local governments, which face widening revenue shortfalls that could imperil critical programs for public health and safety. The agreement also lacked additional support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“We are living through a very difficult time for Colorado and our country. This package will provide continued support for Colorado’s small businesses, hospitals, and efforts to ramp up testing and contact tracing.
“The package includes provisions we fought hard to secure, including funding set aside for small businesses that might not have a relationship with a large bank, increased support for rural health care providers, and dedicated funding to ramp up testing and contact tracing, a necessary step before the nation begins to revisit stay-at-home orders and move to reopen the economy.
“Despite progress in this bill, I am very disappointed this bill fails to provide the flexibility governors, tribal leaders, county commissioners, and mayors from both parties need to allocate the funding as they deem necessary when confronting the widening economic fallout from this crisis.
“Without this flexibility, they may be forced to furlough essential workers, firefighters, police officers, teachers, and other public employees and reduce critical services which keep us healthy and safe. That is the last thing we need as we look to safely reopen the country.
“Although I supported today’s bill, this can’t be the end of our work.”
Like the CARES Act, this agreement is the result of bipartisan negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the Trump Administration. Initially, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to sidestep negotiations and pass legislation that only included funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), while ignoring the calls from Bennet and Senate Democrats to strengthen support for small businesses, hospitals, and testing efforts.
Bennet fought to secure Colorado’s priorities in the final package. These include:
- Funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): Bennet supported additional funding for small businesses, including dedicated funding to serve unbanked and underserved small businesses and nonprofits—especially rural, minority, and women- owned businesses. $30 billion of the PPP funds will assist Community Development Financial Institutions, Minority Depository Institutions, and community-focused lending intermediaries. As the PPP program continues, Bennet will keep pushing for all affected businesses to have access to this critical lifeline.
- Funding for the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL): Bennet fought to include additional funding for EIDL, the longer-term, low-interest loans for businesses affected by the economic fallout from COVID-19. EIDL has been oversubscribed, and this additional funding will help the program meet more of the overwhelming demand.
- Funding to Sustain the Health Care System: Bennet pressed for the deal to include additional funding to support hospitals and other providers on the front lines, including $225 million for rural health clinics. This funding will provide much-needed relief for expenses and lost revenue of hospitals and health care providers across Colorado. It also includes funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General for oversight of the health care funds.
- Funding to Ramp Up Testing and Coordinate a Testing Plan: Bennet pushed for the agreement to include funding for research, development, and expansion of testing. New funding in the agreement can be used to support state, local, and tribal public health entities efforts to ramp up and coordinate molecular, antigen, and serological testing and contact tracing needed to address the virus as communities transition from stay-at-home orders. This bill will help advance the goal of universal testing. The administration will be required to establish a COVID-19 strategic testing plan in 30 days, including how it plans to increase domestic testing capacity, testing supplies, and address disparities in all communities.