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Source: United States House of Representatives – Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)

Honolulu, HIThis afternoon, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) hosted a tele-town hall meeting to update Hawai‘i residents about COVID-19. She was joined by Lt. Gov. Josh Green as well as Hilton Raethel, the President and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i.

This was the nineteenth coronavirus-related virtual town hall Rep. Gabbard has hosted since the pandemic began to impact Hawaiʻi.

“Unfortunately, we continue to see COVID-19 cases rapidly rising in Hawai‘i. We can’t become complacent. Every one of us can and must take steps to stop the spread of this virus by wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth, practicing physical distancing, and avoid gathering in large numbers,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “However, our state Department of Health needs to rapidly increase the number of contact tracers working every day to contain, isolate, and defeat this virus.  There is no excuse for not having at least 400 contact tracers working all across the state to get our COVID numbers under control.  We know that these solutions work. They’ve worked in other countries, and they can work here.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard began the call with an update on the current situation in Hawai‘i, where daily cases continue to rise, as well as her assessment of the deadlock in Congress over the next emergency assistance package.

The congresswoman returned to Hawai‘i this week after a busy few weeks of votes in Washington, including votes on legislation to fund key programs in Hawai‘i, including disaster preparedness, environmental protection, clean energy development, small business infrastructure, Native Hawaiian housing, essential air services, and agriculture.

Rep. Gabbard expressed her disappointment that a partisan impasse prevented Republicans and Democrats from getting an emergency assistance bill done before the end of July. She emphasized that any bill must recognize the importance of focusing on testing and fully mobilizing contact tracing.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green gave an update on the situation in Hawai‘i, where there are now 1,214 active cases in the state. With these numbers, he noted that the state is beginning to see its hospital capacity pushed to the limit. He emphasized the seriousness of this disease, and reinforced the common-sense steps we can take to defeat this pandemic: testing, contact tracing, physical distancing, and mask wearing. He also thanked Rep. Gabbard for her work fighting for the people of Hawai‘i and getting resources to the state.

Hilton Raethel reiterated Lt. Gov. Green’s warnings, noting that the hospitals are currently able to manage cases, but that if infections continue to rise and hospitals continue to fill, Hawai‘i could find itself in a dire situation. Hospital resources, including healthcare workers, are finite, and if they are spread too thin, individuals are not able to get the care they need and this could result in worsening morbidity and mortality.

Rep. Gabbard and her guests answered questions from callers on topics from infectious disease protocols in health care facilities, assistance for renters and the help provided by the HEROES Act, the availability of rapid testing, and whether or not there will be another round of stimulus checks.

Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and her team have been working since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis to bring more resources home to Hawaiʻi, while also keeping Hawaiʻi residents informed through a resource hub on her website, regular e-newsletter updates, and virtual town hall events including public officials and community leaders to provide updates and directly answer constituent questions.

Protecting and Providing for Americans During the Crisis

In early March, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced H.Res.897, a resolution that would provide an emergency non-taxable Universal Basic Payment to all adult Americans until COVID-19 no longer presents a public health emergency. She was the earliest Member of Congress to introduce legislation for a Universal Basic Income-like payment as a temporary economic stimulus package to directly and immediately help Americans as they weather this crisis.

In March, working with Hawai‘i’s Congressional Delegation, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sent two letters calling on President Trump to support Hawai‘i’s request for medical equipment, supplies and resources for the state.

In April, she introduced H.R.6609 with Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) which directs the President to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to acquire and manufacture necessary components, materials, and supplies to conduct molecular and serological COVID-19 medical testing nationwide.
In May, she introduced H.R.6809, the Nurse Workforce Protection Act, with Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13). The bipartisan bill would prevent a healthcare provider receiving COVID-19 federal assistance from furloughing, reducing the salary, or reducing the hours of its nurses more than 25% as well as prevent them from forcing them to use paid vacation days.
She has fought to make sure that Economic Stimulus Payments get to individuals quickly. She called for a rule change to enable recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and non-taxable VA benefits (VA Disability Compensation and Veterans Pension) to more easily obtain their recovery rebates. She also called upon the Department of the Treasury to to prohibit financial institutions from garnishing the economic impact payments to pay debts owed, ensuring that taxpayers receive their direct cash payments as Congress intended. She continues to advocate for a monthly direct basic payment to continue for as long as this healthcare crisis continues. 
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has continued to work to make sure that much-needed medical supplies, testing, and personal protective equipment (PPE) are readily available and sent a letter requesting that the Trump Administration prioritize working with our trading partners to ensure medical providers can obtain needed equipment quickly. She also sent a letter to the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services calling for the Departments to ensure access to PPE for essential childcare providers.
After slamming the Administration for their now-rescinded decision to implement a hard stop at 89 days of duty in late May, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sent a letter to the President, Secretary of Defense, and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator demanding that the National Guard personnel — who have been critical in the fight against COVID-19 nationwide — receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
Noting the unique vulnerability of nursing home residents during this public health emergency, on June 5, Rep. Gabbard called upon Heath and Human Services Secretary Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Verma to address the needs of nursing homes for testing kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), and sufficient staff to respond to the pandemic.
In March and early April, she cosponsored H.Res.908, a resolution which draws attention to the increased anti-Asian bigotry being witnessed during the coronavirus crisis and calls on the Federal government to work with state and local law enforcement to confront and prosecute hate crimes related to this. She recently joined her colleagues in the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) to urge the Administration to make translated materials available on all official federal websites that have information related to COVID-19 and any of the benefits programs created to address this pandemic to ensure that everyone has access to these resources.

Securing Emergency Funding

On May 15, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted to pass H.R.6800, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. Though she expressed grave concerns with the massive bill and how it was put together, she supported the legislation because it would provide urgently needed aid to state and local governments to improve testing and tracing efforts as well as another direct stimulus payment to Americans. In particular, the bill provides support to Counties in Hawai‘i that had not received direct assistance in past emergency legislation.  It also closed loopholes and clarified discrepancies in previous emergency funding bills.

The HEROES Act would also fund personal protective equipment (PPE) purchases for frontline workers as well as hazard pay to essential and frontline workers. The bill would ensure smaller businesses get relief resources, extends the $600/week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation as well as the Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation for gig economy employees. Finally, it included Native Hawaiians in funding provisions for education, employment as contact tracers, mortgage payment assistance, and housing block grants.

To date, Congress has passed 5 emergency funding bills that have been signed into law:

  • S.4116, a bill that would extend the Paycheck Protection Program lending deadline from June 30 to August 8 (on July 1)
  • H.R.6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (on March 4)
  • H.R.6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (on March 14)
  • H.R.748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (on March 27)
  • H.R.266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (on April 23)
  • H.R.7010, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (May 28)
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act provided urgently needed, immediate funds to help with the initial impact of the virus on America. Rep. Gabbard voted to pass this bill which included funds for 14 community health centers in Hawai‘i which received more than $750,000 combined in support.
Next, she voted to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to provide free testing for COVID-19, two weeks of paid sick leave, up to three months paid family and medical leave, unemployment insurance for furloughed workers, food security for those who rely on food stamps, student meals, senior nutrition plans, and food banks, and increase federal Medicaid funds for local, state, tribal and territorial governments and health systems.
The CARES Act included direct cash payments to Americans, assistance for those who are out of work due to the outbreak, funding for small businesses, hospitals, and health care workers, and state and local governments. The bill’s funding for state and local governments included at least $1.2 billion for Hawai‘i. Though the bill included Rep. Gabbard’s idea for a direct benefit payment to support Americans reeling from the pandemic’s impact, it fell short of the full scope suggested in her legislation, H.Res.897, and she urged Congress to do more.
In late April, Rep. Gabbard traveled to Washington, D.C. in the middle of the pandemic to vote on the fourth COVID-19 emergency funding bill. While carefully adhering to physical distancing rules and additional health precautions taken by House leadership, she voted to pass the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. The bill provided $310 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program — including $30 billion set aside for community-based lenders, small banks and credit unions and $30 billion for medium-sized banks and credit unions. The bill also included $50 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and clarifies that small farms are eligible for this funding. Finally, the bill also addressed the continuing public health crisis by providing $75 billion in funding to support hospitals and frontline healthcare workers, including funding for PPE, as well as $25 billion for COVID-19 testing.
At the beginning of July, the House passed S.4116, a bill that extended the Paycheck Protection Program lending deadline from June 30 to August 8. The bill was signed into law by the President in the following days.
In the weeks following the passage of the CARES Act, Hawai‘i received over $142 million in emergency funds to help support healthcare providers. This included more than $10 million in additional funds to the 14 community health centers which received funds after the first emergency bill as well as $132 million to other healthcare providers across the State to help cover the costs they are incurring due to the crisis. However, this $132 million came with the stipulation that these healthcare providers may not engage in “surprise billing” of patients they have treated for COVID-19.
Also, Hawai‘i received over $107 million in funds through the CARES Act to support public transportation systems, community public health infrastructure, and housing for vulnerable communities by way of Federal Transit Authority grants, Community Block Development Grants (CDBGs), and the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program.
By mid-April, the CARES Act continued to yield funds for Hawai‘i, including an estimated $88 million for educational purposes and over $133 million for its airports. The educational funds will help support K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities. This includes a separate fund of $154 million for the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Also in April, FEMA announced another round of disaster relief funds, $100 million available to all 50 States and U.S. Territories.

Calls for Preventative Measures

In early April, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard called for the resignation of Hawai‘i Department of Health officials Bruce Anderson and Dr. Sarah Park because of their repeated failures that put the health, lives and well-being of the people of Hawai‘i at risk. She added that should they refuse to step down, Governor Ige should fire them.

In July, with COVID-19 cases once again on the rise and reaching record numbers in several states, including Hawai‘i, she called on Governor Ige to continue the 14-day quarantine in effect for trans-Pacific travelers. The surge of COVID-19 infections saw a return to hospitals strained to the brink to treat new cases as well as a shortage in testing reagents, personal protective equipment, and medical supplies. The quarantine measure was set to be eased on August 1, but in the days following Rep. Gabbard’s statement and concerns raised by Hawai‘i’s Mayors, the Governor decided to keep the protective measures in place through the end of August.
About Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawai‘i’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for over 17 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major. Learn more about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard…

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