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Wyden, Merkley list issues with latest coronavirus relief proposal

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., issued statements Sunday explaining their issues with and opposition to the current version of the third coronavirus relief package.

First, Wyden's statement:

“Moving forward without a bipartisan deal that covers workers and small businesses, and includes needed health provisions will add insult to the injuries many Americans are experiencing due to COVID-19. Significant progress had been made, including on a major expansion of unemployment insurance, but rather than completing our work, Leader McConnell decided to walk away and try to jam through a Republican proposal that leaves workers behind.

“On top of that, Republicans’ inclusion of a no-strings-attached corporate slush fund that could bail out Donald Trump’s friends and Donald Trump’s company makes this current bill a non-starter. Nurses are making their own masks and gowns, and Leader McConnell and Donald Trump want billions to secretly give their buddies.

“In addition, Republicans have failed to adequately fund the immediate public health crisis, get coverage for key testing and treatment, bolster Medicaid and protect against drug price gouging.

“Leader McConnell and the Trump administration need to come to terms with the fact that the cure to COVID-19 is not a secretive taxpayer-funded bailout of mega-corporations. This agreement is going to get done, but it’s going to get done the right way.”

Merkley released the following statement after voting against a Republican proposal that he said would "bail out well-connected industries while delivering insufficient relief for working Americans."

"For days, Merkley has been working intensely to try to move forward a third coronavirus relief package that will deliver badly needed help to small businesses, working families, and front-line health care workers," the senators statement said.

“Instead of bringing a bipartisan bill to the floor, the Senate GOP proposed a bill that prioritizes taking care of politically-connected special interests instead of the people who need help the most. 

“Their bill gives a half-trillion dollar slush fund for the Trump administration to hand out to corporations with no transparency, no panel of experts to guide decisions, and no oversight. 

“Meanwhile, the bill provides far too little for front-line health care workers and working families facing the abyss. 

“In addition, the GOP is politicizing this crisis with things like targeting Planned Parenthood and undermining unions. 

“This is a national emergency, not the time for partisan politics. I am asking my colleagues to rise to this challenge and come together to get resources to the people who need it most. Americans are counting on us,” Merkley said.

Wyden: Americans Experiencing Homelessness Must Also Have Access to Cash Payments Under Consideration in COVID-19 response

WASHINGTON  Sen. Ron Wyden today announced he is urging Senate leadership to ensure that Americans experiencing homelessness can also get access to direct payments under consideration in response to the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Wyden wrote in a letter with four colleagues to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer that people experiencing homelessness are exceptionally vulnerable to the Coronavirus and face challenges in receiving healthcare and financial assistance.

“Whether inside in shelters or outside in encampments, many are already in bad health and cannot self- quarantine,” the senators wrote. “The virus could spread very fast among this population—which puts the general public at risk as well. Providing cash payments to all Americans will help both those experiencing homelessness and the general public, but specific obstacles must be considered to ensure those funds are fairly dispersed.”

The lawmakers asked for consideration of the following questions in any package of direct assistance to Americans:

• How will we distribute funds to those without a permanent address?

• If we expect to distribute funds at central locations such as homeless shelters, how will we ensure appropriate social distancing to maintain public health?

• How will we accommodate those who may not have reliable government issued identification?

• Considering people experiencing homelessness are not likely to have bank accounts or engage with traditional financial institutions, any check received would need to be cashed. Considering check cashing often takes a substantial percentage of the funds, how will we ensure persons experiencing homeless receive their fair share?

• How do we make sure adequate outreach is done so that people experiencing homelessness will be aware of the benefits to which they are entitled?

They added that any direct payments legislation should make explicit that benefits should not be considered income and do not impact eligibility for means-tested public benefit programs.

In addition to Wyden, the March 20 letter was signed by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

The entire letter is here.

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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