Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, the president declared the coronavirus a national emergency, invoking the Stafford Act. Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This emergency legislation would enhance the health and financial security of America’s families by making coronavirus testing free, providing emergency paid leave, expanding unemployment insurance, increasing federal support for state Medicaid programs, and shoring up food security initiatives, among other measures. It would provide necessary assistance to low-income individuals, children, and families who were facing economic challenges prior to this crisis. Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, released the following statement:
This is a public health crisis that is quickly becoming an economic crisis for families across the country. Our response to this challenge must meet the scale of the problem and be guided first and foremost by science.
After weeks of attempting to undersell the threat of the coronavirus, the president can no longer ignore the scientific reality of the crisis we face. Declaring a national emergency, while long overdue, is the right decision, and this urgently needed move will empower the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and other federal agencies to give states additional support to respond to this crisis, including by boosting the capacity of the health care workforce and supplies and by assisting with logistics.
The House’s swift action to ensure the health and financial security of the American people is also a critically important next step as the coronavirus continues to spread and lives are upended. The bill’s multifaceted initiatives deal with both improving public health and mitigating economic damage. If signed into law, it would help states protect public health, support families in a time of profound uncertainty, and help alleviate short-term economic harm on multiple levels. As the Federal Reserve takes action to buttress our financial system in the middle of a pandemic, it is critical that Congress build on this effort to provide working families additional relief and take steps to defend our democracy amid this threat.
The House has done its duty by passing commonsense solutions that put American families first, and yet again, the Senate is missing in action. It is urgent that the Senate and president uphold their duty to save lives by passing and signing this emergency legislation into law as quickly as possible.
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