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Senator King’s Response to Coronavirus

Senator King’s Response to Coronavirus

Final Passage of the Coronavirus Aid Bill

  • Voting in support of the CARES Act, after two days of negotiations that improved the bill's ability to provide relief for more Maine people, families, students, and businesses. Click HERE for an overview of the legislation's benefits for Maine.
  • Advocating for efficient policy to carry out the provisions of the CARES Act. In early April, Senator King joined 36 of his Senate colleagues to urge the Administration to take additional action to ensure workers receive unemployment insurance as quickly as possible – including the more than 40,000 Maine people who filed for unemployment in the last two weeks after losing their jobs through no fault of their own. In their letter to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, the senators outline a number of actions the administration should take to help states disburse the increased unemployment insurance in a timely and efficient manner that will help workers affected by the ongoing economic slowdown – including better collaboration with state authorities charged with distributing these necessary funds.

2019 – Questioning the Pandemic Program’s Shuttering

  • Urging administration to maintain health program. Before the first case of coronavirus was reported in China, Senator King was raising the alarm as he saw the U.S. Government weakening our ability to monitor and respond to potential global health concerns. In November, he wrote a letter to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), requesting details on the Agency’s decision to shutter the PREDICT program, which was tasked with identifying and combating viruses that may generate global public health emergencies, including the coronavirus. In response to Sen. King’s letter, USAID indicated that it intends to initiate a successor project to continue PREDICT’s work.

2020 – Pushing for Pandemic Preparedness

  • Holding decision makers accountable. Despite the USAID response, by February we were one month away from the closure of PREDICT but had no additional information on a successor project. In February, Senator King and Senator Elizabeth Warren followed up on the November letter to request additional information regarding the decision to shut the program down and the timeline for its replacement.
  • Requesting forward-thinking response. In January, Senator King and 30 of his Senate colleagues wrote to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar requesting regular updates on the Administration’s response to coronavirus, including the country’s capacity to diagnose the disease and what steps were being taken to prepare American healthcare workers.
  • Advocating for American leadership. In February, Senator King introduced the Global Health Security Act, which would support proactive American leadership in global public health by establishing a permanent, Presidentially-appointed position to manage outbreak global health efforts. Though a relevant position has existed through executive order since 2016, that position has been vacant for nearly two years – weakening the nation’s preparedness.  Senator King was seen on CNBC, calling for the reinstatement of this vital position.
    • In March, he sent a letter to Senate leadership urging them to establish a Special Adviser to the President for Global Health Security within the negotiated phase three coronavirus package.

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Urging Aggressive Legislative Action to Support the America’s Public Health and Economy

  • Pushing for PPEs for Maine healthcare providers. Maine’s Congressional Delegation called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to immediately release additional personal protective equipment (PPE) from the National Stockpile to alleviate the persistent, critical shortages Maine is experiencing.
  • Laying out priorities. Senator King urged Senate Appropriators to consider a range of options to provides significant support to Americans:
    • Extending unemployment insurance benefits to displaced workers;
    • Strengthening rural telehealth services with an infusion of $35 million to the Health and Resources Services administration
    • Issuing conditional bonus checks to American citizens under a six-figure salary
    • Restoring the $115 million shortfall faced by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund, and the estimated $187 million needed by the United States Agency for International Development Emergency Reserve Fund;
    • Providing additional funding for “Meals on Wheels” programs
    • Extending Good Samaritan legal liability protections to pandemic responders
    • Keeping small businesses afloat by increasing their total amount of permissible debt from $2 million to $10 million
    • Improving telework and connectivity opportunities through an additional $500 million to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration;
  • Supporting Maine’s public health. Senator King helped secure $4.57 million in funds for Maine’s coronavirus response, with the funds used to support the Maine CDC’s efforts to diagnose and treat Maine people who contract the virus.
  • Calling for free testing for coronavirus. Senator King and a group of his colleagues introduced the Free COVID-19 Testing Act, which would ensure free tests to confirm coronavirus infections.
  • Leading the charge for strong federal response. Senator King and 27 of his Senate colleagues urged President Trump to invoke his Defense Production Act powers to help address widespread shortages of medical equipment, including personal protective equipment, diagnostic test kits, and lifesaving ventilators. (This position was accepted and implemented by the White House within a day of being sent.)
  • Backing paid leave and support for small businesses. Senator King voted for the Families First Act, a bipartisan agreement that provides paid leave for American workers impacted by the environment, creates tax credits to help compensate businesses for this paid leave, and extends unemployment benefits.
  • Sending checks to Americans in need. Senator King led a proposal to provide Americans with direct cash payments to help weather this economic uncertainty. King’s plan would provide $2,000 to all Americans, phasing out high-income taxpayers, and could offer more money if the crisis extends into months ahead.
  • Protecting Maine’s healthcare workers. The Maine Delegation wrote to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, urging him to quickly distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to Maine people.
  • Supporting Maine’s rural healthcare. Senator King cosponsored the Immediate Relief for Rural Facilities and Providers Act, legislation aiming at addressing the impending crisis facing our healthcare system as the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic increasingly strains hospitals and providers across the country. This new legislation would extend a lifeline to rural hospitals and providers and the 60 million Americans who depend on them for health care.
  • Pushing for supplies for healthcare providers. Senator King joined group of 47 Senators in writing to President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, requesting answers about supplies and equipment in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) critical to addressing the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The senators asked the president and vice president to confirm any relevant supply and equipment shortages in the SNS, to outline their strategy to close any such shortages, and to clarify how they plan to use Defense Production Act (DPA) powers to increase production of supplies and equipment needed for the pandemic response.
  • Encouraging U.S. manufacturers to produce in-demand medical supplies for hospitals and healthcare providers.  Senator King cosponsored the Medical Supply Chain Emergency Act, legislation to direct the Trump administration to implement the Defense Production Act of 1950 and federalize the manufacturing and distribution of scarce in-demand medical supplies in order to address the growing challenges of 50 states and thousands of hospitals competing against each other for medical equipment. 
  • Urging HHS to reopen the ACA marketplace through a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). Senator King joined 27 Senate colleagues to urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reopen the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace to allow more un- and under-insured Americans to get health insurance as they face potential health issues related to coronavirus – echoing a push he made in March. In a letter to the Secretary Alex Azar, the senators urged HHS to allow Americans to enroll through a unique Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that should last throughout the duration of the pandemic in an effort to ensure comprehensive coverage for families and communities to protect themselves from COVID-related illness.


Encouraging Maine People to Exercise Basic Caution and Regular Hand-Washing

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Calling for Policies to Encourage Social Distancing

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  • Helping students stay connected. Senator King, the co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to temporarily allow schools to utilize E-Rate program funding to provide Wi-Fi hotspots or devices with Wi-Fi capability to students who lack internet access at home.
  • Continuing to press Senate leaders for funding for students. Senator King joined 19 of his Senate colleagues in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), urging them to support more robust funding for all K-12 students to have adequate home internet connectivity if their schools close due to the ongoing pandemic in the next version of the coronavirus relief package.
  • Maximizing telework to slow virus’s spread. Senator King and 26 other Senators asked President Trump to issue an executive order directing federal agencies to maximize telework capabilities wherever possible.
  • Expanding telehealth services. Senator King joined a bipartisan group of 26 senators in urging the FCC to increase subsidies to healthcare providers through the Rural Health Care Program. The additional funding would ensure that providers have the resources they need to deliver and expand telehealth services for rural communities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • Updating Senate operations during national crises. Senator King announced that he is cosponsoring a bipartisan resolution to amend the Standing Rules of the Senate to allow senators to vote remotely during a national crisis.
  • Advocating for BIW employees. The Maine Delegation wrote to Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, urging him to take actions necessary to allow large private shipyards like Bath Iron Works to follow the same guidance the Navy has issued to public shipyards to protect vulnerable workers and families from COVID-19. 
  • Pushing to improve distance learning. Senator King joined a group of colleagues in a letter to House and Senate leadership requesting robust funding for all K-12 students to have adequate home internet connectivity if their schools close due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Senators expressed their disappointment with the lack of such funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that recently passed Congress, despite their repeated call for resources dedicated to distance learning. The lawmakers urged leadership in both chambers of Congress to support $2 billion in E-Rate funding in the next coronavirus relief package for students to learn at home.

Pushing to Ensure that Maine People Maintain Necessary Services

  • Making sure low-income Maine children access nutrition programs. On behalf of the more than 82,000 students in Maine who qualify to participate in the National School Lunch Program, Maine’s Congressional Delegation wrote to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, urging him to immediately use new authorities Congress has granted him to increase low-income students’ access to meals. 
  • Protecting supply chains through Canadian border. Senator King called on President Trump to consider necessary exemptions to protect public health and safety for businesses and individuals affected by the closure of the U.S.-Canadian border to non-essential travel.  The bipartisan letter, highlights concerns regarding the border closure’s effect on the supply chains of companies that produce or provide essential goods and services.
  • Moving Tax Day to give Americans “breathing room”. Senator King joined Republic Senators John Thune of South Dakota and Steve Daines of Montana to introduce legislation that would extend the tax filing deadline from April 15th, 2020 to July 15th, 2020. This would allow those who need to travel to a secondary location to acquire documents or meet with an accountant to follow the CDC’s ongoing social distancing guidelines without being delinquent on tax filing
  • Urging the Treasury Department and the Social Security Administration to ensure that all Social Security beneficiaries will automatically receive the direct assistance included in the recently-passed CARES Act without having to file tax returns.
  • Pushing USDA to support farmers. Senator King joined a bipartisan group of 31 senators on a letter to Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, urging the Administration to ensure the continuity of our country’s food supply and to support rural areas during the coronavirus pandemic by providing needed relief to farmers.
  • Advocating for local journalism. Senator King joined a group of nineteen senators seeking to support local journalism and media in any future coronavirus relief package. In a letter to Senate leadership and appropriators, the senators stress that the widespread impact of the pandemic – including plummeting advertising revenue – could decimate regional and local news outlets even as communities have become increasingly reliant on their reporting amidst the public health crisis. 

Updating Maine People on Federal Efforts to Address Coronavirus

  • Updating hundreds of Maine employees of Sun Life on federal coronavirus efforts. Senator King discussed the implications of coronavirus on Maine people and the aid included in the bipartisan coronavirus package that passed the Senate – moments before that bill passed the House of Representatives and was sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
  • Highlighting that help is on the way with Maine AARP.  Senator King participated in a live-streamed tele-town hall hosted by AARP Maine to answer questions from Maine seniors about the challenges coronavirus is creating for Maine’s senior population, the federal response to help those who are struggling, and best practices to stay safe. In addition to Senator King, today’s call featured Governor Janet Mills, Maine Commissioner of Labor Laura Fortman, and Maine Commissioner of Health and Human Services Jeanne Lambrew, and was moderated by AARP Maine State Director Lori Parham.