By Congressman Andy Barr
Over the past few weeks, the resilience of Kentuckians and all Americans, especially the heroic doctors, nurses and healthcare workers who have put their health at risk serving others, has been on full display as we fight the 2019 novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) together.
We also have witnessed the courage of Kentucky’s unsung heroes, going to work every day as police officers, firefighters, paramedics, grocery store employees, truck drivers, postal workers, bank tellers, sanitation workers and cleaning crews despite the danger this virus poses to them. Their sacrifice helps our communities maintain a sense of normalcy during these trying times.
In response to this public health emergency and the resulting shutdown of our economy, Congress has passed, with my support and input, three pieces of legislation to mitigate the damage to our communities and daily lives.
Congress first passed an emergency appropriations bill to provide funding for agencies like the National Institutes for Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration to vastly expand diagnostic testing, antiviral treatments for those afflicted, and vaccine development.
Next, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to provide free testing and targeted paid sick, medical, and family leave for those afflicted by this disease. This legislation created a payroll tax credit to reimburse struggling small employers and ensure workers have jobs to return to after their leave, expanded unemployment insurance, and provided funding and flexibility for essential programs that help feed those in need in our communities.
In late March Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This $2.2 trillion relief package supports individuals and families, distressed businesses of all sizes, and our doctors, healthcare workers and hospitals. It is the most aggressive fiscal rescue legislation in American history.
The CARES Act provides Kentucky small businesses, workers and families with desperately needed funds to pay their bills and face the economic challenges this virus has created, including the following:
• The recovery rebate program in which Americans with a valid Social Security Number will receive direct financial assistance of $1,200 for individuals with adjusted gross income at or below $75,000 and $2,400 for couples with adjusted gross income at or below $150,000. Families with children will receive an additional $500 per child. Even Social Security beneficiaries, seniors, and veterans who are not typically required to file a tax return will automatically receive this rebate the same way they receive their monthly benefit checks.
• The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to help those not traditionally eligible for Unemployment Insurance, such as self-employed and independent contractors as well as those who are unable to work or telework as a result of the Coronavirus. The CARES Act also provides an additional $600 per week to each unemployed worker for four months beginning April 1.
• The Paycheck Protection and Loan Forgiveness Program which provides federally guaranteed, forgivable loans to small businesses, certain nonprofits, sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed workers. Businesses with 500 employees or fewer, and certain franchisees, are eligible for loans of 2.5 times monthly payroll, up to $10 million. More than $110 billion in small business loans were issued in the first four days of the program.
Additionally, the CARES Act authorizes direct funding to ensure our health systems and healthcare workers have the resources they need by providing:
• $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile;
• $45 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to procure personal protection equipment, ventilators, and other medical supplies for response efforts;
• $4.3 billion in additional appropriations to the CDC; and
• $100 billion in grants to hospitals and healthcare providers on the frontlines of the response.
Throughout this difficult time, my district office stands ready to help our constituents in any way we can. Although we have temporarily ceased in-person constituent meetings, we continue to provide assistance via phone and email. If you need assistance with a federal agency, or you have questions on any of the information above, please don’t hesitate to contact my district office at (859) 219-1366.
Make no mistake, we will defeat this virus and will be stronger and more resilient on the back end. Now, we look to the future, when rapid testing, a stronger domestic medical supply chain, a sentinel surveillance system and effective therapies will allow us to reopen the economy and we will begin in earnest the great American comeback.
Andy Barr represent’s Kentucky U.S. House District 6.