I hope you and your family are safe and well during this very difficult time. Please help slow the spread by staying home, following the CDC guidelines and checking in on elderly family and neighbors by phone or social media if possible. I have postponed all of my in-person campaign events during this time.
None of us could have imagined the current crisis we face. I could not have thought it possible Congress would, out of necessity, pass a bill that spends $2 trillion in one act. But we need to fight this virus and provide our hospitals and medical professionals on the front lines the resources and tools they need. We also needed to act to secure our economic future as workers are forced to stay home for safety and small business are forced to slow down or temporarily close to fight the virus.
I am proud that my efforts, along with those of many of my colleagues, allowed us to pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (or CARES Act). I applaud President Trump for acting quickly to sign this vital legislation into law on March 27th.
To help our hospitals and other medical providers prepare and treat COVID-19, there is a new $100 billion grant program for them. Additional funding is directed to our VA hospitals and to the defense health program in order to make sure that our veterans and our active military personnel have access to the medical care they need.
$11 billion is designated for research on new drugs to treat COVID-19 and for work on a vaccine. Another $16 billion is appropriated to replenish our strategic national stockpile of vital items like personal protective equipment and respirators. As chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I included $45 billion in the bill for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund for use across the country in responding to COVID-19. I also put $400 million in my subcommittee’s portion of the bill for grants from FEMA to local first responders.
In addition to the health care response, we must protect our working families and small businesses through this emergency. For workers laid off, unemployment benefits are extended under the CARES Act for an additional 13 weeks, from 26 weeks to 39 weeks. Unemployed workers will receive an additional $600 per week on top of their regular benefit for four months.
West Virginians earning less than $75,000 per year (single) or $150,000 (married couple) will receive direct payments of $1,200 (single) or $2,400 (married couple). An additional payment of $500 will be made for each child. For those earning between $75,000 and $99,000 as an individual or between $150,000 and $198,000 as a couple, smaller amounts will be paid based on sliding scale with payments declining as income increases.
These payments are designed to help families through this difficult time and to put money back into our economy.
I am also proud of the relief that the CARES Act provides for our small businesses. The new Paycheck Protection program will allow small businesses with under 500 employees to receive loans to help cover expenses during this emergency. Loan forgiveness will be provided to these small businesses for up to 8 weeks of payroll costs, rent, mortgage interest and utilities – but only if workers are kept on the payroll. If employees are laid off, then the employer will lose a portion of their loan forgiveness. To encourage small businesses to rehire workers who have already been laid off due to COVID-19, the loan forgiveness will be available if workers are rehired by June 30.
This relief for small businesses is absolutely critical for both our Main Street employers and their workers. If we are successful in keeping small businesses afloat and their workers paid during this emergency, then it will be far easier for our economy to rebound after the health care threat from COVID-19 passes.
COVID-19 has caused both a healthcare and an economic emergency for our nation. I will keep doing all that I can to help keep West Virginians safe, prepared and able to respond to the threat. If you have questions or need help accessing any federal programs, please feel free to reach out to my office.
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