Congress Answers Coronavirus with Strong Bi-Partisan Help for Workers, Families, Small Businesse
By REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT
The spread of the novel coronavirus in northeastern Pennsylvania and across the U.S. and much of the world is threatening our health and upending daily life as we know it. This unprecedented crisis demands the full weight of the federal government to support the health care workers and first responders who are saving lives, and to help everyday Americans who may be dealing with illness in their families or weathering the economic storm the virus has brought on. Since the very start of this outbreak, I’ve worked hard to make sure Congress takes care of those who are most at risk: workers, families, small businesses, and vulnerable older Americans. Over the last month, we’ve enacted three major relief packages that do just that. Each of them passed with strong support from both Democrats and Republicans. Most recently we passed the CARES Act, a sweeping $2.2 trillion package to address the widespread health and economic impact of this deadly virus head-on. This legislation directs more than $150 billion to our hospitals and health care system. These funds will go toward providing frontline health care workers with personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other critically-needed medical supplies. If we hope to slow the spread of this virus and save American lives—including those of our heroic frontline health care workers—we must equip our health care system with the resources to operate effectively. To help those who are out of work as large parts of our economy remain shut down, the CARES Act boosts unemployment insurance benefits by $600 per week for up to four months and extends regular benefits by 13 weeks. And for the first time, independent workers and the self-employed will be eligible for these benefits. To help Americans continue to make ends meet, the $2.2 trillion CARES Act puts cash directly into the pockets of American workers, families, and seniors, including Social Security recipients. For our small business owners, we’ve made available loans and grants that will help small businesses continue to make payroll and rent payments, and ultimately, keep workers employed. For Pennsylvania, we’ve secured nearly $5 billion in Coronavirus Relief Fund aid for the Commonwealth, and I will be working hard in Congress to bring additional aid and assistance to our communities here in northeastern Pennsylvania. These bills cover a lot of ground, and I want to be sure that everyone in our region is getting the help they need and deserve. This is why I created a hotline that’s open for extended hours to answer your questions. From 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, you can call my office at 570-341-1050, for help with things like federal small business loans, unemployment benefits and other programs. While this relief package will provide some of the critical emergency assistance northeastern Pennsylvania needs, I know more federal aid will be necessary to help our local communities deal with the effects of this pandemic. Of course, it takes more than legislation to combat a public health emergency of this magnitude. It takes brave health care workers who risk their lives to care for others. It takes grocery store workers, delivery drivers, postal workers and others in essential industries helping to keep the core parts of our country working. It takes business owners who are doing all they can to keep going for the workers and communities who depend on them. And it takes all of us to keep practicing social distancing measures to prevent our friends and loved ones from getting sick with COVID-19. Over the years, northeastern Pennsylvanians have had to overcome many challenges. Each time, we have emerged more resilient.
Now, as our nation grapples with this unprecedented public health and economic emergency, it’s time for us to draw upon that same spirit and come together as one community united in addressing this crisis.
Congressman Matt Cartwright is a member of House Democratic Leadership and the House Committee on Appropriations. He serves as Vice Chair of the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee and is a member of the Financial Services & General Government and Military Construction-VA Appropriations Subcommittees. He also serves on the Committee on Natural Resources. Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District includes Lackawanna, Wayne, and Pike Counties, and portions of Luzerne and Monroe Counties.