Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Albio Sires (8th District of New Jersey)
Congress continues to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and its affect on our communities. This week, I pushed for a number of policies being developed to address testing, protective equipment for frontline workers, small business relief, funding for counties, and more.
Small Business – In a letter to the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), I joined other Members of Congress in seeking immediate answers and new measures for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Specifically, we asked that the SBA re-open the EIDL application queue, provide updated application statuses, and communicate to Congress their back-end capacities so that eligible applicants can be better served.
Frontline workers – My colleagues and I wrote to the Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of Homeland Security on the urgent need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers in mass transportation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to recommend wearing a mask when social distancing is not feasible. The men and women in airline, rail, and other transportation industries must have access to resources for their safety.
Pensions – Failure to act now on the solvency of multi-employer pensions would be disastrous for millions of retirees and our nation. Addressing congressional leadership, my colleagues and I urged swift financial relief in the next package to avoid jeopardizing the benefits these retirees have earned.
Testing – Given the available data, social distancing measures are not enough to restore normalcy and safety for our communities. To effectively combat COVID-19, we need testing and contact tracing at a scale only manageable with strong resources and leadership by the federal government. My colleagues and I wrote to the CDC, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force urging a more robust national testing and contact tracing infrastructure and requesting detailed information on how this will be achieved.
Additionally, I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 6666, the COVID-19 Testing, Reaching and Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act. Introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), this legislation would mobilize a $100 billion program to scale up testing in the United States. Run by the CDC, this program would use the combined resources of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), schools, nonprofits, and more to build the testing and tracing infrastructure our nation needs to combat COVID-19.
Reproductive Rights – The COVID-19 crisis cannot provide cover for states rolling back reproductive health services. In a letter to Speaker Pelosi, my colleagues and I alerted congressional leadership of attempts to expand the Hyde Amendment in coronavirus legislation, adding to the mounting restrictions individual states have enacted in recent years. Vulnerable women with limited resources cannot be denied access to reproductive care.
County Governments – In the next legislation to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress must provide funding for the country resources being used on the front lines. Thousands of hospitals, public health departments, emergency operations, and more are run at the county level nationwide. In a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy, my colleagues and I asked for funding to be distributed to these localities providing essential functions of the coronavirus response.
Homework Gap – As social distancing measures continue in our schools, the achievement gap is exacerbated by existing disparities. I joined other members of Congress in advocating for the $2 billion Emergency Educational Connections Act to be included in the next coronavirus relief package. This measure would provide funding for schools and libraries to purchase Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and devices for students in need.
DACA – Recently, the Department of Education moved to exclude Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients from student relief included in coronavirus stimulus legislation. This is unacceptable. I joined my colleagues in demanding the Secretary of Education rescind this policy and make all students eligible for aid.
Please know that I will continue working to get the 8th District the resources it needs. If you have questions or need assistance please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202)-225-7919 and follow instructions to be connected to my staff or send an email to NJ8inquiries@mail.house.gov. Together we can get through this.