When it became apparent that COVID-19 was a serious threat to the health and economy of our nation, I immediately began working with my colleagues to pass legislation that would bolster our ability to test and contact trace, support workers and families through a prolonged economic pause, and support communities as they looked to return to a new world.
The House passed three major legislative packages to support Americans as they battled COVID-19. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stimulus Act (CARES Act), and the Heroes Act were developed to address this crisis. These essential pieces of legislation would provide families, workers and employers the resources they need to stay safe, healthy, and financially stable through this public health crisis. Unfortunately, we still await passage of the Heroes Act in the Senate.
Fighting the Virus
All three COVID-19 response packages include robust investments in the healthcare industry. They provided critical funding to support hospitals and frontline providers, increase testing, and provide resources and relief to Connecticut nursing homes. The Heroes Act would also provide support for workers’ healthcare plans, enhance vaccine manufacturing capacity and strengthen the national supply chain for materials like ventilators and masks.
Additionally, I introduced the Helping Hospitals in Need Act, which would support Connecticut hospitals by investing $100 billion in efforts to combat COVID-19. It would also ensure that states like Connecticut with the highest per capita hospitalization rates for confirmed COVID-19 cases receive prioritization for this funding.
As everyone stayed home to stop the spread, our essential workers continued to work to keep our nation operating. They have been ensuring we have healthcare, food, and other essential services. It is not enough to call them heroes; essential workers deserve compensation and protection.
I have supported premium pay for essential workers to reflect the risk in continuing to work during a public health pandemic. The Heroes Act included a $200 billion “Heroes Fund” which would provide essential workers an additional $13 an hour on top of regular wages. Additionally, I supported the presumption of occupational illness for all essential workers, so they may access workers compensation should they get sick on the job.
From the first conversation on COVID-19 response, I highlighted for my colleagues that we can not bail out large industries while telling small businesses they were on their own. I advocated for robust funding for Small Business Administration Loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and the Paycheck Protection Program. I also worked to ensure those programs were not drained by large corporations with deep ties to the banking industry. As we begin to re-open the economy, I will continue to advocate for resources desperately needed by small businesses to recover, thrive, and stay safe.
As a result of COVID-19, our nation is facing the worst unemployment crisis in generations. I supported measures to provide federal unemployment insurance to all workers – including self-employers, gig economy workers and independent contractors who are not normally eligible for unemployment benefits. Additionally, I was proud to support the $600 unemployment supplement, to help give families the financial stability required to stay home and stop the spread.
Prior to this crisis, America had a major food security problem. Families, workers, children and college students across Connecticut go without food far too often. I staunchly supported the bolstering of food security programs, like SNAP, WIC, and school lunch programs.
I also championed legislation to ensure seniors and immunocompromised individuals would be able to use their SNAP benefits safely, without having to risk their health by physically going to the grocery store. My bill, the Increasing Access to SNAP Delivery During COVID-19 Act, would invest $125 million in reimbursements to grocery stores for delivering to SNAP recipients during the COVID crisis.
Financial Assistance for Families
Connecticut residents have taken recommendations to stay home, stay safe, and stop the spread seriously. However, that has not come without a price. Even with federal and state support and unemployment benefits, many have still struggled to make ends meet. As a legislator during this unprecedented time I am working to ensure Connecticut residents have the support they need to stay safe and healthy.