May 13, 2020

Several Duckworth Priorities Included in House Democrats’ New COVID-19 Relief Package


[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled the next COVID-19 relief package, the Heroes Act, as well as highlighted several priorities she successfully worked to include in the proposal:

Despite Republicans saying they have ‘yet to feel the urgency of acting immediately’ to help lift Americans out of this crisis, Congressional Democrats hear the millions of struggling families loud and clear—and we are working to get relief into the hands of hard-working Americans everywhere. This comprehensive package from House Democrats invests in healthcare providers and hospitals, authorizes another round of economic stimulus payments for millions of Americans, provides additional funding for testing and contact tracing, boosts funding for small business grants, adds more support for hunger prevention programs and includes more support to help states and localities to dig themselves out of the COVID-19 crisis.

I’m also pleased that this proposal includes provisions I worked on to ensure Veterans aren’t charged a copay for preventive COVID-19-related services, provide more support for minority-owned small businesses, ensure that students don’t fall behind because they can’t access high-speed internet as well as the addition of a grants program for environmental justice communities.

More than 80,000 of our fellow Americans have perished during this global pandemic and my heart goes out to every single family that has lost a loved one. Now is not the time to ease up on the fight against COVID-19 by trying to get back to ‘normal’ before we’re ready to do so. Now is the time to refocus and make sure we’re putting resources into the hands of those who need it the most—our frontline and essential workers, small business owners, state and local governments—so we can methodically begin to re-open our country in a way that doesn’t needlessly risk lives or cause more suffering. I’m proud to support the Heroes Act and hope that McConnell can dig deep to find the empathy and urgency that struggling Americans need by bringing it to the Senate floor for a vote.”

Duckworth successfully worked to include the following bills and provisions in the Heroes Act:

  • No Copays for Veterans Act: The Heroes Act contains Senator Duckworth’s bipartisan No Copays for Veterans Act, which prohibits any Veteran who receives care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) integrated healthcare system from being charged a copayment or other out-of-pocket cost for preventive services related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as defined under the CARES Act (Public Law 116-136). AMVETS and SWAN endorsed the “No Copays for Veterans Act.”
  • Strengthen Support for Minority-Owned Small Businesses: Provision of Markey-Duckworth bill included that establishes a $10 million set-aside for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), extends the Paycheck Protection Program’s (PPP) covered loan period from 8 weeks to 24 weeks and extends the PPP program to December 31, 2020.
  • Microloan Program Enhancement Act: Provisions of Senator Duckworth’s Microloan Program Enhancement Act are included that eliminate the bureaucratic and burdensome 1/55th regulation that slows down microloan lending to small businesses; increase grants to help intermediaries that facilitate Microloan financing; increases the Microloan Program authorization levels and enhances the total amount of Microloan dollars available for eligible small businesses. 
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Provisions include $10 billion to support anticipated increases in participation and cost increases in response to the pandemic; increases individual SNAP benefits by 15 percent; and extends the Pandemic EBT program, for families with children who would have otherwise received free or reduced price meals in school, through the summer and until schools reopen.
  • The EJ Grants Bill: Provisions authorizes $50 million in grants for the Environmental Justice Small Grants Program, the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program and the Community Action for a Renewed Environment grant programs I and II.
  • The COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act: A bill Senator Duckworth introduced with Senators Tammy Baldwin and Patty Murray, which would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue, within 7 days of enactment, an emergency temporary standard to protect essential workers who are at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. The bill would require OSHA to finalize a rule to protect workers from dangerous infectious diseases, a basic public health effort begun by Obama Administration but that the Trump Administration scrapped prior to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Funding for Water: Provisions provide $1.5 billion in funding for the Low-Income Household Drinking Water and Wastewater Assistance program. Senator Duckworth and the Environmental Justice Caucus requested $5 billion.
  • Protecting Aviation Industry Workers: Provisions strengthen labor protections for airline employees and contractors of companies receiving relief funding and enhance transparency requirements to hold corporations accountable for supporting their personnel. 
  • Inmate Calling Reforms: Provisions strengthen law to make sure inmate calling rates are just and reasonable, a particularly important issue during a deadly pandemic that limits in-person visitation to protect law enforcement, prison personnel and inmate populations.

Duckworth supported the inclusion of the following provisions:

  • Helping Illinois Farmers: Provisions provide $16.5 billion for direct payments to agricultural producers.
  • Broadband Internet Support: Provisions provide $1.5 billion to help close the “homework gap” by expanding student access to WiFi hotspots and connected devices, critical efforts as schools continue to conduct online classes; include $4 billion for emergency home connectivity needs; and authorize $9 billion for the Federal Communications Commission to help providers provide households with $50 benefit to go towards the cost of monthly internet service during the pandemic. 
  • Strengthen FEMA Assistance: Provisions increase federal funding cost-share to 100 percent to help state and local governments respond to COVID-19 and clarifies that FEMA assistance may be used to fund operating costs for essential state and local services during the pandemic.
  • Protecting the 2020 Census: Provisions extend Census Bureau data collection deadline to ensure that every person is counted in the decennial census in Illinois and throughout the country. 
  • Strengthening Election Security: Provisions provide $3.6 billion for grants to States for contingency plans that enable voting in federal elections during a state of emergency.
  • Funding for Correctional Facilities: Provisions provide $600 million in funding to provide testing and treatment of COVID-19 to incarcerated individuals.