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Wyden, Merkley hail Senate passage of coronavirus stimulus package

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., welcomed Wednesday night’s Senate passage of the bipartisan legislative package to respond to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic and -- in his view -- worsened by the Trump administration’s failure to ensure widespread testing in the United States.

The legislation now advances to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

“From the start, Democrats made it clear that struggling families and small businesses must be the priority in any economic package passed by Congress,” said Wyden, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member and a chief negotiator of the package. “I fought hard for a bill that would help those Oregonians who have no way to pay their bills for potentially months down the road, and the small businesses struggling to stay afloat during this crisis. There is lots of work ahead, but tonight the Senate took the right step toward helping alleviate the economic pain so many Oregonians are feeling.”

Highlights: 

  • Wyden, as Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member, secured a historic expansion of unemployment insurance. A new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program will cover workers not covered by traditional unemployment insurance, including self-employed and gig workers. Workers covered by traditional unemployment insurance and the new pandemic program will receive a 13-week extension of available benefits (39 weeks total) and an additional $600 per week for four months, which will be full wage replacement for many workers.
  • The package includes Wyden’s employee retention credit to prevent further mass layoffs in Oregon and nationwide. 
  • Working with U.S. Senators Chris Coons and Ben Cardin, Wyden helped secure a provision ensuring every small business with a loan from the Small Business Administration would be relieved of their loan payments—including principal, interest, and fees—for the next six months.
  • Wyden helped secure $100 billion for hospitals and other providers to deal with overcapacity and other challenges. He also secured policies that ensure seniors with Medicare can receive up to 90 days of prescriptions at a time, boost care at home through telemedicine and increased use of non-physician providers, and made the eventual COVID-19 vaccine free for seniors. 
  • The bill includes $400 million for states to expand vote by mail, early voting and other measures to reduce health risks from voting, which Wyden requested, along with Senators Klobuchar and Coons.

The package also includes the following actions, among others: 

  • $55 billion increase in the Marshall Plan for our Health Care System.
  • $150 billion for a state and local Coronavirus Relief fund, including $8 billion for a separate tribal relief fund.
  • $10 billion for SBA emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for small business operating costs.
  • $350 billion for new small business loans up to $10 million, specifically aimed at prioritizing small businesses in underserved and rural markets and those owned by economically disadvantaged individuals and women.
  • $30 billion in emergency education funding and $25 billion in emergency transit funding.
  • $30 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, as well as private nonprofits providing critical and essential services.
  • More than $10 billion for the Indian Health Services, and other tribal programs.
  • Prohibition on businesses controlled by the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, and heads of Executive Departments from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs.
  • Make rent, mortgage and utility costs eligible for SBA loan forgiveness.
  • Ban on stock buybacks for the term of the government assistance plus 1 year on any company receiving a government loan from the bill.
  • Establishment of robust worker protections attached to all federal loans for businesses.
  • Provide income tax exclusion for individuals who are receiving student loan repayment assistance from their employer.

News release earlier Wednesday from Sen. Jeff Merkley:

MERKLEY ANNOUNCES MAJOR PROVISIONS FOR OREGONIANS IN THIRD CORONAVIRUS RELIEF PACKAGE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today announced that a new, bipartisan deal on a third relief package to address the coronavirus crisis will contain major provisions to help Oregon families, businesses, and health care providers struggling with the fallout of the global pandemic.

The $2 trillion economic rescue package will include:

  • Checks of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child to most working and middle-class Americans;
  • $350 billion in fully forgivable loans to small businesses;
  • $150 billion to support a surge in the health care system; and
  • An additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits, and an expansion of the program to cover part-time workers, gig workers, the self-employed, and contractors;
  • $150 billion to provide stability to state, local, and tribal governments to maintain health, education, and other services in the face of collapsing tax revenue;
    • $30.75 billion to help local school systems and higher education institutions continue to provide educational services to their students.
    • More than $7 billion for affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs to help low-income and working class Americans avoid evictions.
    • $3.5 billion to provide child care assistance to health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other workers deemed essential during the response to the coronavirus.

The deal also includes legislation authored by Merkley and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) to authorize an investment of $255 million per year to support nurses—the heart of our health care system—who are on the front line fighting the coronavirus.

Merkley released the following statement:

“Oregonians and Americans have been devastated by this crisis. Over the last two weeks, I’ve been talking regularly with small business owners and workers in Oregon who are facing an economic abyss. They need help, and they need help now. Today, we have reached a critical agreement on a deal that will provide desperately-needed support to families, workers, small businesses, and our frontline health care workers.

“I’ve been fighting hard to help small businesses stay afloat and, importantly, to help them keep paying as many of their workers as they can. While this compromise does not do as much as I would like, it will make fully forgivable loans available to thousands of Oregon small businesses, which could be the difference between collapse and a path to the other side of this emergency.

“As the husband of a nurse, I’ve seen up close how difficult their jobs are and how important they are to patients. As this pandemic intensifies, nurses will be on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus. We needed a major investment in nurses and the nursing workforce even before this crisis hit, and we need it even more now.

“We must realize that any choice between our lives and our livelihoods is a false choice—we cannot have one without the other. This proposal invests in both health care and the economy. It provides desperately needed relief so that we can save lives now and keep families afloat until we have defeated this virus. Now, Congress must pass it, and the President must sign it, without delay.”

Coronavirus / Government-politics / News

KTVZ News Team

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