These are uncertain times and the coronavirus pandemic has caused us all to make major changes in our lives. While there is no question that our nation and our state face a serious challenge, I am fully confident that, together, we will overcome it.
We’re working hard at the federal level to support our families, seniors, and small businesses as we navigate COVID-19. There’s a lot of information out there, so I wanted to provide you with some specific updates on the work we’re doing in Congress.
The first package to address coronavirus passed Congress with overwhelmingly bipartisan support a couple weeks ago. In this phase, we provided additional resources to our federal, state, and local partners, and health officials, including:
- $1 billion in loan assistance made available to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and nonprofit organizations impacted by financial losses as a result of the coronavirus outbreak
- Authorized $500 million for administering telehealth services under Medicare so more seniors can access care from the comfort and safety of their homes
- $4 billion to increase access to testing and treatments, and to invest in vaccine development
On Wednesday night, President Trump signed a second coronavirus relief bill that the Senate passed to help Iowa families, workers, and seniors—specifically addressing the issue of paid sick leave, providing free COVID-19 diagnostic testing, and making additional nutrition available to support our children and our seniors.
This bill provides:
Emergency paid leave for workers impacted by COVID-19
- Small business owners: This bill includes a refundable payroll tax credit to reimburse—dollar for dollar—local businesses for paid sick leave and family and medical leave wages paid to employees that are affected by COVID-19, including for those who are self-employed. Click here for an explanation on who is eligible.
- Employees: This bill provides 10 days of emergency paid sick leave for full-time workers impacted by COVID-19, and part-time employees will receive the number of hours they normally work in a two-week period. It also provides additional emergency family and medical leave for individuals who need to care for a child at home due to school or child care closures.
- The bill immediately provides $500 million in emergency administrative grants to increase state capacity to process unemployment applications and make payments.
- It also makes an additional $500 million available to states that experience a 10% percent increase in unemployment to provide 100% federally funded benefits to provide extra weeks of benefits.
Free access to testing
- The bill ensures that Americans have access to free COVID-19 diagnostic testing when their doctor says a test is needed. It also included $1.2 billion to help cover the costs of testing, including $142 million to directly help our servicemembers and veterans.
Access to vital nutrition and food
- Seniors: The bill provided $250 million for the Senior Nutrition program in the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to provide approximately 25 million additional home-delivered and pre-packaged meals to low-income seniors who depend on the Senior Nutrition programs in their communities. This funding will provide meals to low income seniors:
- Who are home bound;
- Who have disabilities;
- Who have multiple chronic illnesses;
- As well as caregivers for seniors
- Children: This bill provided half a billion dollars for WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) to help low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the coronavirus emergency.
Now, we are working on Phase 3. In this package, I’m focusing on three key areas that hit close to home for Iowans: our small business community, health care sector, and our working families.
I’ve heard from a number of small business owners who are concerned about the immediate, and future, impacts this pandemic could have on them and the countless Iowans they employ.
To that end, I’ve had discussions with the administration, including Secretary Mnuchin and other senior officials, as well as phone calls with small business owners, health care professionals, farmers and producers, economic development leaders, bankers, and Iowans from all backgrounds, industries, and places across the state to hear from them during this challenging time.
As a member of the Senate Small Business Committee, I’m continuing to listen to the needs and concerns of Iowans and am fighting for their priorities in the Phase 3 relief package, which we’re swiftly working through right now.
We’ll Get Through This, Together
At the end of the day, we all play an important role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. All Iowans need to continue to take this seriously, to follow the guidance from the CDC, and to help keep others healthy.
We each will need to do our part to look out for one another, especially our seniors and those most at-risk. But like every other challenge America has faced, we will get through this—together.
I will continue to keep you updated with information as we move through this episode. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office if you have any questions.
For more updates on what's happening in Washington, D.C. and Iowa, be sure to 'Like' my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter @SenJoniErnst, and subscribe to my YouTube channel.