Monroe News: Emergency relief is coming in fight against coronavirus
We live in an unprecedented time with an invisible enemy. The coronavirus has fundamentally upended our daily lives and taken a tremendous toll on people’s physical and financial well-being.
As our nation battles this pandemic, the House’s legislative response has, so far, come in three phases. In the beginning of March, the House unanimously passed a supplemental funding bill to assist vaccine development, expand telehealth options, and support state and local health departments.
A couple of weeks later, a second bipartisan bill, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, was signed into law by President Donald Trump. The bill allowed for free testing regardless of insurance status, created emergency paid sick leave for workers forced to stay home, and strengthened nutritional assistance programs to support vulnerable populations.
The third and most significant emergency relief bill yet, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, became law at the end of March. While an imperfect bill, the CARES Act includes necessary provisions to help workers, small businesses and medical professionals. For workers, an economic impact payment of $1,200 will go to individuals making less than $75,000 and $2,400 to couples with earnings below the $150,000 threshold. On top of that, parents will receive an additional $500 per child. To help those who got laid off, unemployment insurance is also expanded to include self-employed and contract workers, while benefits are increased for up to four months.
As the coronavirus has slowed our economic engine, many of our local businesses are struggling to stay afloat. Many others, sadly, might have to shut their doors for good. The CARES Act establishes a new Paycheck Protection Program that offers a critical lifeline. Under the program, a small business with fewer than 500 employees can apply for a low-interest loan to cover eight weeks of payroll and certain other expenses. If the loan is used to keep workers on the job, it will be forgiven. Starting April 3, applications for these funds are being accepted through local lenders.
The CARES Act also provides additional funding to support hospitals as they treat the sick. We salute the doctors, nurses, first responders and many other unsung heroes who have been on the front lines of this pandemic from the outset. In recent days, FEMA has ramped up its distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), but the situation is still dire. With increased funding for the Strategic National Stockpile, we need to redouble our efforts to get health care workers these life-saving supplies.
Michigan’s companies have been rallying to this cause. Large manufacturers like Ford and General Motors are producing ventilators and respirators. In Jackson, volunteers at Grand River Brewery made hand sanitizer for the local hospital. Another Jackson-based business, Technique Inc., retooled its manufacturing facility to create face masks for our dedicated medical professionals. The examples of community members stepping up, one after another, are inspiring — and too numerous to count.
To overcome the coronavirus, we all have a role to play. All of us can practice good hygiene, follow social distancing guidelines and stay at home unless it’s essential. All of us can support a local restaurant or nonprofit, check on an elderly neighbor and help the less fortunate. Together, that’s how we’ll get through this.
Times are tough right now and we face more uncertainty in the days and weeks ahead. But throughout our history, Americans — with incredible ingenuity, cooperation, and spirit — have unified to defeat our common enemies. This time will be no different.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton represents Michigan’s 7th District, which includes Branch, Eaton, Hillsdale, Jackson, Lenawee, and Monroe counties, along with parts of Washtenaw County. For more resources and updates on the coronavirus, visit walberg.house.gov/coronavirus.