Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Chuck Schumer at City Hall on Saturday.
While many of us were sleeping Friday night, the House of Representatives passed an act designed to bolster the federal government’s response to the coronavirus and to help Americans remain safe and financially secure.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, negotiated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, would provide solutions for the problems many possible issues Americans may face in the coming weeks. The bill covers paid leave, enhanced unemployment insurance, expanding food security programs and increasing federal Medicaid funding. Also included in the legislation is free coronavirus testing.
The bill, which has the support of President Donald Trump and now moves to the Senate, will not be passed until Monday at the earliest. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell left Washington for the weekend and the legislative body is not in session until Monday.
“It was disgraceful that Leader McConnell left town last night. We could have had this done already, but he left,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) Saturday at City Hall. “I am calling on him to move this package immediately when we return on Monday, as is.”
If passed as is, the package would ensure that all those who need to be tested for the virus for free, even if the individuals have private insurance. It also gives people a right to 12 weeks of paid family leave that replaces a significant share of lost wages so that those who take leave to avoid spreading the virus or due to illness or caregiving responsibilities can pay their bills. Paid sick leave is also included, meaning people have the right to two weeks of paid sick leave for people to get tested, undergo quarantine and care for family members and kids forced to be home from school.
The enhanced unemployment insurance section of the act gives states the resources and flexibility to provide unemployment benefits to laid off and furloughed workers, as well as to those workers who exhaust their allotted paid leave. This measure also provides additional funding to help the hardest-hit states immediately and in the future if conditions worsen. It will also provide billions more in federal Medicaid funding, including $1 billion for New York City and a total of $6.2 billion for the state.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes more than $1 billion to provide food to low-income pregnant women and mothers with young children, help local food banks and feed low-income seniors. It ensures that students who depend on schools and childcare for free and reduced-priced meals continue to have access to nutritious foods during closures.
“We’re all facing drastic impacts to our daily lives, but in order to allow all Americans to follow necessary public health guidance, they need the economic security to do so,” said Rep. Max Rose, a Democrat who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. “That’s why it’s so critical that this bipartisan legislation will ensure free coronavirus testing, paid sick leave, and expanded food and health security. Our work is by no means done though, as we need to keep working to greatly expand testing capacity and accessibility, ensure the safety of all workers on the front lines, and support our small businesses and the broader economy.”