Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) today voted to pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748) a bipartisan, $2 trillion stimulus package that will deliver robust resources to hospitals, health care providers, states and local governments, along with additional economic relief for American workers and small businesses, as the nation grapples with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The CARES Act builds on two prior coronavirus response packages, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) – an economic relief package that provides American families with financial support – and $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal, state and local governments to fight the virus and keep Americans safe.
“Over the last several weeks, Congress has acted swiftly and purposefully to address the coronavirus crisis by helping shore up America’s health care system and by providing financial support to American workers and small businesses impacted by the pandemic,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Today, we took another significant step forward in our coronavirus response effort by passing a wide-ranging bill that will not only inject critical funding into our health care system, but also expand and enhance key programs to protect workers and families as we continue to practice social distancing and help slow the spread of the virus.”
Congressman Sarbanes continued: “Importantly, while I’m encouraged that this package contains $400 million in election assistance to help states conduct safe and accessible elections in November, it falls far short of the $2 billion that states will most certainly need to boost the resiliency of our election systems in the face of this public health emergency. As Congress considers future coronavirus response packages, I will continue to call for robust election funding to protect voters, safeguard poll workers and ensure the right to vote.”
Sarbanes concluded: “At the end of the day, the only way we’re going to get to the other side of this public health emergency and get our economy back into gear is by boosting the capacity of our health care system and fighting the virus effectively across the country. Moving forward, we must continue to take appropriate steps to ensure that our hospitals, health care providers, doctors, nurses, first responders and frontline health workers have the resources, equipment and support they need to fight the virus.”
Key provisions of the package that will benefit Maryland include:
- Helping States, Local Governments, Hospitals and Health Care Providers Fight the Coronavirus: Invests $200 billion in hospitals, health systems, medical supplies and research. The bill also provides $150 billion for state and local governments to ensure that they have additional resources to manage this public health emergency.
- Putting Money Directly in Americans’ Pockets: Provides $1,200 for adults earning up to $75,000 and an additional $500 per child for parents.
- Delivering Economic Relief to American Workers and Families: Injects $260 billion into Unemployment Insurance (UI) to match the average paycheck of laid-off or furloughed workers. In addition, the package expands the kinds of workers who can qualify for UI, including gig workers, contractors and part-time employees. It also increases unemployment benefits by $600 per week for four months.
- Boosting Resources for Small Businesses: Provides $377 billion in additional loans and grants for small businesses. The package also makes rent, mortgage and utility costs eligible for SBA loan forgiveness and encourages small businesses to retain employees.
- Feeding Vulnerable Children, Families and Seniors: Includes $15.5 billion in additional funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to ensure that Americans, including seniors and children, receive the food they need. The bill also provides $8.8 billion in additional funding for Child Nutrition Programs in order to ensure that children receive meals while school is closed and $450 million for food banks like the Maryland Food Bank.
- Taking Initial Steps to Ensure Safe and Accessible Elections: Provides $400 million to states to invest in the ability to vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration and enhance the safety of in-person voting by increasing the number voting facilities and poll-workers.
- Safeguarding Veterans’ Health: Invests more than $19 billion in VA medical services to prepare for and address the coronavirus, including expanded telehealth services and support for veterans at an increased risk of contracting coronavirus.
- Delivering Resources to Community Health Centers: Extends $1.3 billion to Community Health Centers, which are on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis and provide essential medical, vision, dental and mental health care – along with affordable prescription drugs – to millions of underserved patients across America.
- Helping American Students: Delivers $30 billion in emergency education funding and provides more flexibility for existing institutional grants so that resources can be re-deployed to address COVID-19.
- Supporting Public Transportation and Mass Transit Hubs: Directs $25 billion to aid the nation’s transit systems – like the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) train service – and help protect public health and safety. The bill also helps commercial airports, like Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), meet ongoing needs and provides relief to aviation workers.
- Ensuring Greater Accountability and Corporate Oversight: Prevents the secret bailouts for corporations supported by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Trump Administration by establishing an oversight panel, requiring public release of loan information and prohibiting funds from going to President Trump’s private businesses.