News of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be grim. On Thursday, the United States became the country with the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world. Cases in our Commonwealth and our community continue to rise sharply.
I will hold my third telephone town hall beginning at 4:50 pm on Wednesday, April 1, to discuss the latest in the pandemic, including sharing details on some news described below. To participate, you can register here or call 877-229-8493 and enter PIN 117023# at 4:50 pm on Wednesday.
It is vital that all of us remain clear-eyed about the challenges facing us, and each do our part to prevent the spread of this deadly disease by washing our hands, disinfecting surfaces, remaining at least six feet apart from others when we go out, following guidance from the CDC, and above all, staying home.
To this point, Governor Northam issued an Executive Order today requiring all Virginians to stay at home. The order allows exceptions for certain activities, for instance, purchasing food or providing medical care. Details of the order are available here. Schools and non-essential businesses remain closed, and WMATA service remains sharply limited.
As the COVID-19 pandemic threatens our communities, all of us can help each other by following both the spirit and the letter of this directive, which takes force today and is set to continue until June 10.
Meanwhile, Congress had a busy week addressing this crisis. On Friday, the House of Representatives passed the CARES Act, emergency legislation to strengthen the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and stave off looming economic disaster. The bill has already been signed into law.
The legislation devotes over $2 trillion to relief efforts, including funds for hospitals, states and localities, expanded unemployment insurance for workers, loans for small businesses, direct payments to families, and funding for medical equipment and supplies. Thousands of constituents have contacted me with their concerns, so I wanted to take the time to share basic details about the bill. I will include additional resources on a new page at my website, Beyer.House.Gov, soon.
The CARES Act includes the following:
Supporting Workers With Dramatically Expanded Unemployment Benefits: The CARES Act contains numerous provisions to strengthen unemployment benefits, including an additional $600 per week for the next four months, providing an additional 13 weeks of federally funded benefits, and expanding eligibility to include workers in the gig economy and self-employed workers. Workers can file for unemployment through the Virginia Employment Commission, and an FAQ on the bill’s provisions on unemployment insurance is available here.
Marshall Plan For American Hospitals: The CARES Act directs funding of nearly $200 billion to our hospitals, health systems, and also to health research. It also expands funding for the personal protective equipment desperately needed by medical workers, including ventilators, n95 masks, gloves, and more.
Immediate Direct Cash Payments to Lower and Middle-Income Americans: On March 12, I was one of the first in government to call for this provision. As enacted in the CARES Act, this works out to cash payments to lower-and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child, beginning to phase out at an annual income of $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a household. The goal is to help people who need it to weather the crisis, and I am already working with colleagues to spur discussions about future, continued payments as the pandemic unfolds. An FAQ about direct payments is available from the House Committee on Ways and Means, on which I serve.
State and Local Coronavirus Relief Fund: The CARES Act creates a $150 billion State and Local Coronavirus Relief Fund to provide states and localities additional resources to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. I feel strongly that the District of Columbia was shortchanged in its allocation, and will continue seeking improved treatment for our region in future legislation.
More Than $375 Billion in Small Business Relief: The CARES Act provides more than $375 billion in small business relief, including $349 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees and keep them on the payroll; $17 billion for debt relief for current and new Small Business Association borrowers; and $10 billion in immediate disaster grants. Basic information on the provisions is available from the House Small Business Committee, with an FAQ from the Senate.
The bill also included legislation I helped introduce which would make the cost of an eventual vaccine for COVID-19 free for all Americans. There are many more provisions in the CARES Act, and an overview of some of them is available here.
Though it is a compromise and far from perfect, I believe this bipartisan legislation will save lives.
The CARES Act built on previous legislation to fund the public health response to the coronavirus outbreak and to support workers and families during the unfolding pandemic. I remain committed to doing all I can to keep you and your family safe and healthy amid the greatest threat to our civilization that most of us have lived through. Following its passage, Congress has more work to do without delay, and I am already discussing next steps with my colleagues.
In the meantime, I encourage you to call your doctor if you or someone you know begins to feel symptoms such as fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath (the uninsured can call Neighborhood Health at 703-535-5568), to monitor local and state government accounts for updates, and to follow the warnings and directives of public health officials.
Finally, I hope you will continue to stay in touch by visiting my website, following me on Facebook and Twitter, and signing up for my newsletter. And please do not hesitate to contact me via email, by phone at 202-225-4376, or at 703-658-5403 for constituent services.