by U.S. Senator Roy Blunt
Our country is facing a health crisis unlike anything we have ever seen. Americans are understandably concerned about the coronavirus pandemic, but I have no doubt we will rise to this challenge together.
While Congress can’t legislate an end to this disease, my colleagues and I are doing our part to make sure we have the resources in place to respond effectively at all levels of government – federal, state, and local – to get this pandemic under control.
In early March, Congress passed immediate emergency funding for health-related response efforts. We followed that with a second package that addressed paid sick leave, enhanced unemployment insurance and food assistance, and increased health care funding for states.
We have just passed the third package: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to build on those efforts. The CARES Act provides financial assistance to Americans and their families, helps small businesses maintain their payrolls, stabilizes major sectors of our economy, and gives health care providers the tools they need to fight this pandemic.
First, the legislation provides immediate, direct payments to most taxpayers. Under the CARES Act, an individual person making up to $75,000 or a married couple making up to $150,000 will be eligible for $1,200 for each person. Families will receive an additional $500 for each child. That means, for example, a typical middle-class family of four will get $3,400 to help them meet their daily expenses or cover costs that they didn’t have before.
We want to make sure families can make ends meet with all of the disruptions in our economy. To do that, we need to help them maintain an income now and make sure they have jobs to come back to when the immediate crisis has passed. The CARES Act does this by providing support to small businesses to keep them afloat. Anyone from a small town knows that these businesses are the life of their community. More than 99% of businesses in our state are small businesses. The CARES Act includes $350 billion to provide cash flow assistance to small businesses through federally guaranteed loans. Many of these loans will be eligible for forgiveness if employers maintain their payrolls through this emergency.
Larger industries that employ hundreds of thousands of Missourians, like aviation, tourism, and hospitality, have also taken a big hit. We need to stabilize major sectors of our economy, and this package does so without putting taxpayers on the hook for giant bailouts. It’s important to keep in mind that, unlike with previous financial downturns, there are no major structural problems with the economy today.
But we can’t overcome the immediate economic challenges until we beat the health care challenges. That’s why the CARES Act provides the resources that health care professionals — doctors, nurses, and medical researchers — need to fight this pandemic.
The law makes sure all testing for coronavirus patients will be covered by insurance and so will the eventual vaccine for this disease. It provides an additional $16 billion for personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other medical supplies for federal and state response efforts. Hospitals get significant support so they can remain solvent as they make adjustments to the coronavirus response.
Doctors and hospitals also have more flexibility to offer telehealth services, which is particularly important in rural areas. Telehealth can help keep people out of the doctor’s office, so they don’t get sick and don’t make other people sick.
The CARES Act includes additional funding to support biomedical research conducted by agencies like the National Institutes of Health. This research is critical to speeding up the development of a vaccine for the Coronavirus and helping protect our country from future pandemics.
While the CARES Act wasn’t a perfect bill, Congress was able to come together and do the work the American people expect us to do. I will keep working with my colleagues to do all we can to support Americans so that, when this pandemic has passed, we are back at full strength as soon as possible.