Chairman Scott Remarks at First Full Committee Virtual Forum on COVID-19 Response
WASHINGTON – Today, Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott delivered the following remarks at the first full Committee virtual forum on COVID-19.
“Today, we’re gathered to provide all Members the opportunity to share how the spread of COVID-19 is affecting their districts and discuss what the Committee can do to provide urgently needed relief.
“The COVID-19 emergency is disrupting nearly every facet of our society. More than 30 million people have filed unemployment claims; students and families are confronting the consequences of school and childcare closures; business owners are struggling to cope with an unprecedented economic pause; and many of our constituents are at-risk of losing access to health care during this global pandemic.
“In our response, the Committee has to focus on three key priorities: maintaining students’ access to an education, protecting workers’ access to paychecks, and expanding access to affordable health care options.
“The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the CARES Act, and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act took important bipartisan steps in the right direction.
“To preserve access to education, the CARES Act included $31 billion in emergency funding, which will help K-12 schools and institutions of higher learning cover priorities like sanitizing classrooms, purchasing educational technology, and supporting students.
“As a result, my state will receive about $238 million, the colleges and universities in my district will get $46 million in emergency relief—of which at least half will go to students for emergency financial aid—and the governor will have an additional $67 million to meet education needs across the Commonwealth.
“We also included support for public broadcasting. This is so that institutions, like WHRO in my district, can provide courses that students can take to keep their minds active. WHRO has content for virtually all of the required courses and people can go online to get those courses, thanks to WHRO.
“We created a Pandemic-EBT program to provide emergency food relief to families, and allowed the Department of Agriculture and school districts to continue serving meals to students who rely on them as a source of daily nutrition. We also designated additional funding to reinforce emergency food providers, like food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens, to keep families from going hungry.
“To help essential workers and low-income families access early childhood education, Congress provided $750 million for Head Start and $3.5 billion for child care providers.
“And, for student loan borrowers, we halted loan payments and interest accrual on all federally held student loans for six months.
“To support workers during this emergency, we provided two weeks of emergency paid sick leave to as many as 60 million workers, and 12 weeks of job-protected leave – 10 of which are paid – for workers caring for a child whose school or childcare is closed.
“For workers experiencing lay-offs, furloughs, and reduced hours—including so-called gig workers—we expanded unemployment insurance by $600 a week in addition to state employment benefits.
“To ensure access to urgently needed health care, we secured no-cost coverage for COVID-19 testing and vaccines under all insurance plans. We also provided $1.3 billion in emergency funding for Community Health Centers, which serve 28 million people, including over $3.5 million for centers in my particular district.
“These legislative packages are helping address some of our most immediate needs, but it is clear that we must pass additional legislation to provide our constituents the meaningful, long-term relief they need.
“The next legislative package must include urgent financial relief for states and localities.
“According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, state budget shortfalls could reach $500 billion or more. If we fail to help state and local governments cope with this shortfall, it will have devastating effects on essential public services, especially education.
“Before this crisis, Virginia was planning to give teachers a modest raise, hire more school counselors, provide more funding for high-poverty schools, and freeze tuition at public colleges. These actions are now indefinitely on pause, and—without federal support—will probably just evaporate altogether.
“The next package must also include additional relief for childcare providers, K-12 schools, and institutions of higher learning, which are facing a tidal wave of new expenses and the threat of imminent budget cuts.
“The next package must reinforce our career and technical education. While the CARES Act dedicated $345 million to support dislocated workers, that is simply not enough. As states reopen, we must ensure that state and local workforce systems have the resources to address critical shortages in frontline jobs and help workers get back on their feet.
“Today, I’m going to be introducing the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act, along with a number of my colleagues, to get money to our state and local workforce systems – to help employers prevent layoffs, get into new jobs, and support training for placement in new positions, especially health care workers and direct care and frontline workers.
“We also have to protect workers’ safety. OSHA needs to use its authority to issue enforceable regulations and we hope that takes place.
“We also have to consider COBRA benefits and no-cost coverage for COVID-related treatment. Finally, we have to make sure that all health care is protected.
“My colleagues: This unprecedented emergency demands an unprecedented response. As I have said before: We should not view COVID-19 response bills as economic stimulus packages. It is disaster relief and so we look forward to working together to address the needs of our constituents.
“Thank you and I am now pleased to recognize Ranking Member, Dr. Foxx, for her opening statement.”
Democratic Press Office, 202-226-0853
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