Schatz Calls For More Federal Funds to Combat Coronavirus

March 18, 2020, 11:14 AM HST · Updated March 18, 11:14 AM
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US Sen. Brian Schatz. Courtesy photo. Background image: CDC/ C.S. Goldsmith and A. Tamin

Today, US Sen. Brian Schatz voted to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and called for more federal support to help people. The bill bolsters the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak and provides limited relief for some American families hurt by the personal and economic impact of the outbreak.

“This bill will help some people get relief right now, but it is just not enough,” Sen. Schatz said in a press release.

“I will continue to work with our federal partners to make sure we have the resources we need to help Hawai‘i families get through this.”

Key provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act include:

  • Paid emergency sick leave – establishes a new paid sick leave program and calls for employers to immediately grant 10 days of paid sick leave that can be used by infected people, caregivers, and parents whose children’s schools have been closed.
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o   Those employed by large companies with more than 500 employees are not covered.

  • Expanded family and medical leave – provides paid leave for employees if they have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, are caring for a family member who has been diagnosed, or if they are caring for a child or another dependent because of a school or care facility closing.

o   The Department of Labor can exempt employers with fewer than 50 employees.

  • Expanded unemployment assistance – provides additional funds to states that experience a 10 percent increase in unemployment. States would be required to loosen eligibility requirements for unemployment, such as work search requirements or waiting periods.
  • Food assistance – provides additional $500 million to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which provides access to food for low-income pregnant women and mothers with young children who have lost their jobs because of the outbreak. Additional funding will be granted to the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which would help food banks meet the increased demand they are likely to experience.
  • Free coronavirus testing – provides free testing for those who need it. Patients will not be responsible for any deductibles or copayments.

 The bill is expected to be signed by the president later today.

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