Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden welcomed tonight’s Senate passage of the bipartisan legislative package to respond to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic and 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.”
· 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.
A web version of this release is here.