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APRIL 3, 2020
The last few weeks have begun a public health crisis the likes of which few of us have experienced in our lifetimes. I have remained hopeful because of the way Rhode Islanders have come together to handle the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, help each other, and keep our communities moving forward. You are doing your part – and as your representative I have been working hard to provide immediate help during this difficult period.
With significant social distancing orders in place and weekly unemployment claims hitting record highs, we find ourselves at a critical point. In these unprecedented times, the CARES Act, which passed the House last Friday, is the unprecedented response we need to help the families, workers and small businesses that have been hit the hardest. This “Phase III” legislation provides more than $2 trillion in relief, including financial assistance to people with one-time payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. It supports local public health operations by providing $100 million for hospitals and other healthcare organizations and $150 billion in state aid, including $1.25 billion for Rhode Island. It also helps small businesses and nonprofits weather the economic downturn by backing $350 billion in forgivable loans to allow them to make payroll and pay rent. For workers, it includes a $600 a week boost to unemployment insurance benefits for four months and a temporary unemployment insurance program for part-time, self-employed and other non-traditional workers.
Earlier in March, the House passed “Phase II,” the Families First Coronavirus Reponses Act. The bill was the product of bipartisan negotiations and cleared the way for drastic action to protect families’ health and financial wellbeing by providing free testing and paid sick leave for those who need it, extending important family and medical leave benefits, and tackling food insecurity as more communities began implementing necessary preventive public health measures like school closures, quarantines, and social distancing.
Keeping Americans safe has been the top priority since the early developments of this crisis. As the scale of this threat became apparent in early March, the House worked quickly to pass an $8.3 billion funding package to help bolster preparedness and response efforts that included at least $5.4 million for Rhode Island. The “Phase I” package prioritized funding for research and development of vaccines and therapeutics for the virus, crucial support to help the operations of state and local health agencies, and an initial $7 billion for low-interest loans for small business support.
I know that many Rhode Islanders are struggling because of the turmoil created by the COVID-19 outbreak, and they need assistance now. I remain committed to helping however I can. In addition to our work on critical legislation, my office has compiled a list of helpful resources:
I will also host another live Telephone Town Hall on Monday, April 6, at 7:00pm. The town hall will focus on what we are doing to keep communities safe from coronavirus and what resources are available to those in need. If you would like to participate, call (855) 962-1080 at 6:55pm to join the discussion.
Please remember to continue following guidance from medical professionals like practicing social distancing, frequently washing your hands, and staying home to be safe and prevent further spread. We will get through this together. Should you have any questions or need further assistance, my office remains open and you can call us during business hours at (401) 732-9400 or email us at any time.
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For more information about my work in Congress, please visit my website.