WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tonight, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) voted to advance the bipartisan agreement for the third phase of coronavirus relief, which unanimously passed the Senate by a vote of 96 to 0. In his full statement below, King highlights the important additions made during the most recent round of negotiations, including additional money for unemployment insurance, funding for states who are leading the fight against coronavirus, additional support for hospitals, and oversight protections to make sure big corporations are putting their workers before stock buybacks.
“The coronavirus epidemic is challenging the American people in every facet of our society,” said Senator King. “Given the magnitude of the threat we face, it was critical that the Senate’s legislation do right by working Americans who are now facing deep uncertainty. This bill is a clear improvement over where we were a few days ago, and that’s a credit to everyone who came to the negotiating table to produce a better package for the American people. Thanks to bipartisan negotiations over the last two days, today’s legislation now includes four months of increased unemployment insurance for Maine people who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own, creates a $150 billion fund to support states, tribes, and localities on the front lines of this fight, provides an additional $55 billion to support our healthcare system, and establishes much-needed accountability measures for big businesses, to make sure any funds that go to large corporations are used to support workers, not for stock buybacks or executive pay.
“The process was far from perfect, but the end result is a bipartisan bill that will help more Americans weather this tough time and come out the other side. In this moment of uncertainty, we must remember that the threat we face is daunting, but it is not insurmountable. Today, the Senate came together to get this legislation right for working Americans, and we’ll be ready to continue to work on behalf of the American people as the risks evolve in the weeks and months ahead. No matter how hard it seems, please know that we will get through this, together.”
King-backed priorities included in the bipartisan agreement include:
- Four months of heightened unemployment insurance. This increased unemployment is one month more than was included in the initial legislative proposal, and would provide a key lifeline for American workers who have lost their jobs amid the economic slowdown. Senator King emphasized the importance of unemployment insurance in his letter to appropriators laying out his key priorities for this package.
- Direct payments to the American people. The legislation includes a $1,200 cash payment to all American adults making below $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 per married couple, and an additional $500 per child. Senator King was a leading voice calling for direct cash payments to the American people.
- $100 billion for a program to direct aid to healthcare institutions on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus – a $55 billion increase from the initial bill. Senator King has made it a priority to make sure our healthcare providers have the tools they need to treat patients and protect themselves, and backed plans to provide additional support to rural hospitals who were already facing challenges.
- $377 billion to help small businesses weather economic slowdown. The legislation includes vital funds to aid small businesses impacted by the economic freeze. Small businesses can obtain $10,000 loan advance grants within three days of requesting a loan from the Small Business Administration, providing them with the capital that they need to maintain operations or pay rent until their disaster loan application is approved. The legislation also includes the King-backed Small Business Debt Relief Act, which creates a six-month payment holiday for existing small business loans through the Small Business Administration. The provision will help 1,883 businesses in Maine navigate the obstacles created by coronavirus and look toward the future.
- $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile. These funds will help to procure personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other medical needs to support coronavirus response efforts. Senator King joined Maine’s delegation in urging rapid disbursement of this lifesaving equipment.
- $1 billion for the Defense Production Act to bolster domestic supply chains, enabling industry to quickly ramp up production of personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other urgently needed medical supplies. Senator King today called for the federal government to assert its leadership position in manufacturing and directing such vital equipment.
- $900 million for LIHEAP to help lower income households heat and cool their homes. Senator King strongly opposed removing any funds from LIHEAP to further the fight against coronavirus, and cited the lack of LIHEAP funding in the original proposal as a reason to pursue further negotiation.
- $200 million to support telehealth initiatives. The legislation includes $200 million for the Federal Communications Commission to support healthcare providers using telehealth to address coronavirus. Senator King has strongly advocated for additional telehealth funding, which will help support older citizens attempting to limit their exposure and rural Maine people who may live far from their healthcare provider.
- $400 million for election assistance for 2020 elections. The legislation will provide $400 million to the Election Assistance Commission to assist democratic participation within social distancing guidelines. The funds will be given as grants to states to make needed election adjustments, including early voting, voting by mail, or opening additional polling places to reduce the number of people who come into contact with one another.
- Oversight and protections on taxpayer funds given to businesses. The legislation now includes strong worker protections, bans on stock buybacks and limits on executive pay for any large business accepting taxpayer dollars. Senator King also highlighted the absence of oversight and transparency for these funds as a reason to continue negotiations.
- Critical relief for student loan holders. The bill requires the Secretary of Education to defer loan payments, principal and interest for all federally held loans for 6 months without penalty for the borrower for all federally held loans. The bill also suspends any involuntary collection for defaulted loans, such as wage garnishment, reduction of tax refunds, or Social Security benefits. Additionally, suspended payments will count as if payments were made for any loan forgiveness program that the borrower would have otherwise qualified.
In addition, the package includes a King-led provision aimed at bolstering our disaster response capabilities. The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act, which King introduced with Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.), provides medical professionals with a consistent level of legal protection while volunteering during federally-declared disasters, including the current coronavirus epidemic.