Federal Efforts Look to Combat Coronavirus Impacts on Hawaiʻi

March 15, 2020, 10:44 AM HST · Updated March 15, 11:09 PM
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This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.  PC: Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM. Content provider: CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS

US Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) joined a majority of his colleagues tonight in voting to pass H.R. 6201, the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act”, to address the severe impacts of COVID-19 on the personal health, safety and financial security of Americans.

The measure was the second emergency action by the House in a week, following passage and signature by the President of an $8.3 billion emergency supplemental funding bill last week.

“COVID-19 is a public health emergency, especially with the recent declaration by the World Health Organization that it is a pandemic stretching around the globe,” Case said in a press release.

“But it is also an economic and financial crisis delivering real risk and hurt to citizens, families and communities across America, including our own in Hawai’i especially because of its impact on our top industry, tourism.”

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H.R. 6201 would:

  • Ensure that all individuals, including those with private insurance, Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP VA, FEHBP and TRICARE, as well as the uninsured, will have access to
    tests at no cost;
  • Establish an Emergency Paid Leave Program 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;
  • Increase the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage that the federal government provides to state and territorial Medicaid programs. This will prevent states from cutting Medicaid programs;
  • Gives states the resources and flexibility to provide unemployment benefits to laid off and furloughed workers, as well as top those workers who exhaust their allotted paid leave;
  • Directs OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard within one month that requires health care facilities to implement comprehensive plans to keep front-line health care workers safe;
  • Includes more than $1 billion to provide nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women and mothers with young children, help food banks, and provide meals to seniors. It also protects students’ access
    to school meals in the event of school closures.

“These and our earlier measures will help address immediate concerns and needs as we all work through this emergency together”, Case said.

“But clearly we still don’t know what course this pandemic will take or how severe its impacts will be, and it is clear that this is just the start of the major actions that Congress will need to take to fully address the widespread needs and consequences of this crisis.”

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