Duckworth: Despite Significant Flaws, COVID-19 Compromise Makes Important Progress to Help America Address and Recover from Pandemic
[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) will vote to support the bipartisan COVID-19 response compromise negotiated by Democratic and Republican officials in recent days to help our nation and our economy recover from this crisis, despite its imperfections. The Senator issued the following statement regarding her decision:
“The last few days have been stressful for all Americans, but this bipartisan compromise—while far from perfect—shows that in times of crisis Congress is still able to address some of our nation’s most pressing challenges, and I will support it. My vote does not diminish just how bitterly disappointed I am that this compromise still includes a provision to make it harder for women to access healthcare as well as a provision punishing healthcare providers that offer critical services to people with disabilities, the elderly and even survivors of rape and abuse—but it also does not diminish my will to continue fighting for Americans who have not traditionally had a voice in Congress. Know that in the days and weeks ahead I will do everything in my power to protect these critical providers and the Americans who rely on their services.
“From the outset, I’ve demanded that any sort of stimulus must put workers—not corporations—first, and this compromise brings us closer to that goal by putting cash directly in the pockets of consumers, greatly expanding emergency unemployment insurance for those who’ve already lost their jobs or been furloughed and protecting the jobs of Americans who still have theirs. I’m also pleased it includes immediate relief for small businesses struggling to make payroll and mortgage payments, transparent oversight of bailed-out corporations and guardrails that protect workers while preventing those corporations from buying back stock or raising CEO salaries with taxpayer dollars. With our state and local governments—as well as our hospitals and health centers—on the front lines of this crisis, it was also critical that the agreement provide them with needed resources. It does that to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.
“While this bipartisan compromise marks an important turning point in our nation’s fight against a public health and economic crisis on a scale few have ever seen before, our work is not finished. This compromise leaves too many low-income Americans and Americans with disabilities behind, and I am comforted to know that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already begun working on the next phase of recovery legislation. That next phase must protect women’s access to healthcare, include increased resources for anti-hunger programs as parents are unable to work and students are unable to go to school, protect renters and homeowners from eviction during this crisis and it must ensure that all Americans can take time off from work if they are sick. I will do everything in my power to ensure that we include those priorities in the next round of negotiations.”
Today’s COVID-19 stimulus compromise includes the following key provisions:
- Direct payments to Americans of up to $1,200 per person, with an additional $500 per child. The full payment is available for individuals making up to $75,000 per year and married couples making up to $150,000 per year, and decreases for those making above those limits.
- Massive expansion of emergency unemployment insurance to help workers who are laid off or furloughed—including self-employed workers, part-time workers and those in the gig economy—with up to $600 per week (100% of the average worker’s income) for up to 4 months. The agreement will also help put money in people’s pockets sooner by providing federal incentives for states that eliminate waiting weeks.
- Hundreds of billions of dollars to help small businesses get through the pandemic, retain employees and reopen quickly. The stimulus proposal includes $350 billion in loan forgiveness grants for both small businesses and non-profits to maintain their workforces and pay for expenses including rent, mortgages and utilities. It also includes $10 billion for U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for small business operating costs and $17 billion to assist SBA cover up to 6 months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.
- Collective bargaining agreements protections for 2 million airline industry workers, expansion of airline contract workers’ healthcare benefits and direct payments of paychecks to keep workers on the job while prohibiting airlines from stock buybacks and dividends for the entire life of their taxpayer-funded grant plus one year.
- Student loan tax relief that encourages employers to offer student loan repayment programs. This agreement excludes up to $5,250 in qualifying student loan repayments paid by the employer on behalf of the employee from income for income tax purposes.
- Significant critical investments in our nation’s healthcare infrastructure, including hospitals. A new $100 billion fund for hospitals and providers most affected by this pandemic to help them acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and testing supplies, hire new workers, expand training initiatives and construct new patient housing and emergency operations centers. This compromise also increases Medicare payments to hospitals and providers and makes additional investments in our nation’s Strategic National Stockpile.
- Tough and transparent oversight of corporations that receive bailout funding along with strict protections for their employees. Any company that receives a taxpayer bailout under this legislation will be prevented from buying back their own stock with taxpayer dollars or increasing compensation packages for its executives. The legislation will also protect collective bargaining agreements for companies receiving bailouts and create transparent public reporting requirements and other oversight mechanisms for those bailouts so the American people can see where their money is going. Donald Trump’s personal and family businesses are specifically prohibited from receiving funds under this agreement.
- $1 billion for the Defense Production Act (DPA) to bolster domestic supply chains and quickly ramp up production of personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other urgently needed medical supplies, and billions dollars more for federal, state, and local health agencies to purchase such equipment. Duckworth has frequently urged the Administration to quickly use its authorities under the DPA to increase production and support the supply chain.
- $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile supplies of pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies, which are distributed to State and local health agencies, hospitals and other healthcare entities facing shortages during emergencies.
- $1 billion to help Amtrak stay afloat and keep thousands of employees employed while ensuring America’s intercity passenger rail system can continue service and nationwide.
- $45 billion to more than double FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund that assists state, local, tribal, and territorial governments in protecting citizens and helping them recover from COVID-19. The Fund can be used for things like personal protective equipment as well as reimburse costs of National Guard deployments, something Senator Duckworth has called on the Federal Government to do.
- $150 billion for states, tribes and local governments to reimburse COVID-19 related expenses. States will receive a minimum of $1.5 billion and additional funding will be distributed by population.
- More than $30 billion for grants to provide emergency support to local school systems and higher education institutions to continue to provide educational services to their students and support the on-going functionality of school districts and institutions.
- $25 billion in aid to our nation’s transit systems; $10 billion in grants to help our nation’s airports; $3.5 billion in additional funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant to provide child care assistance; more than $7 billion for affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs; more than $6.5 billion in Federal funding for CDBG, the Economic Development Administration, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to help mitigate the local economic crisis and rebuild impacted industries such as tourism or manufacturing supply chains.
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