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MAY 4, 2020
Right now, Rhode Island families, small business owners, and frontline workers are in dire need of help as we grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. To answer their calls, I drove down to Washington two weeks ago to cast my vote and pass the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. This package will help protect public health and bolster the nation’s economy with additional help for mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, and healthcare organizations and their employees. The legislation also makes a massive investment in testing, which is key for overcoming this crisis.
Passage of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act is particularly important for Rhode Island. Our state is experiencing surging unemployment numbers, and many of our small businesses and healthcare institutions are facing hardship and uncertainty.
This “Phase 3.5 package” replenishes the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) with $310 billion in additional funding. We created the PPP in late March as part of the CARES Act, but it quickly ran out of money due to overwhelming demand. PPP funding now includes $60 billion allocated specifically for small to mid-size community-based lenders, banks and credit unions, so that the smallest of businesses can get access to aid. Empowering community lenders will also help in reaching and supporting women, minority and veteran-owned businesses.
Ensuring the health and wellbeing of families is the only way we will be able to return to normal. While Rhode Island is a national leader in testing, ramping up more will be critical as communities contemplate how to reopen. We also need to get robust medical treatment infrastructure in place because we know that risk remains, and we cannot let up. The latest funding package includes $75 billion for hospitals, clinics and nursing homes to help them access critical resources like personal protective equipment. To help us continue to flatten the curve, it provides $25 billion for a national testing strategy that will increase testing capacity.
I know more needs to be done, and I am continuing to fight in Washington to bring additional relief. We need to prioritize more stimulus payments for individuals, aid for states, cities and towns, and hazard pay for first responders and essential employees. We cannot leave our localities behind and ignore the livelihoods of hardworking people like firefighters, police officers and teachers. A true national recovery is only possible if we have the backs of our states and their residents. The next COVID-related legislative package needs to take them into account, and I’ll work to see that it does.
Please continue to follow guidance from health experts to keep us all safe. Practice social distancing, wash your hands often, and stay home as much as possible. We are here if you need help. If you have any questions or need assistance, my office is open, and you can call us during business hours at (401) 732-9400 or email at any time. My office has also compiled helpful resources on my website.
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For more information about my work in Congress, please visit my website.