Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement on Senate passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:
“Congress on March 5 passed a first coronavirus response bill that funded federal agencies helping to stop the virus’s advance.
“Today the Senate passed a second coronavirus response bill focused on helping American families facing hardship because of the virus.
“First, this bill ensures that coronavirus testing is free for everyone who needs it, including the uninsured. No one should go untested because they’re worried they can’t pay for it.
“Second, the legislation requires companies to provide paid sick leave during public health emergencies. No one who is sick with this virus should feel that they have to choose between getting paid and spreading the virus to coworkers. We want sick people to stay home, and this provision helps make that happen. The bill also provides additional leave to parents who have to care for sick children.
“Third, the bill enhances the existing unemployment insurance program to help protect workers who have been laid off because of the virus. This will be a disruptive time for many workers and we need to make sure they’re taken care of.
“And fourth, this legislation strengthens food security programs like student meals, food stamps, food banks and nutrition programs for seniors. Many of the sites where millions of Americans go for meals are shuttered, and we want to make sure no one goes hungry.
“We need to ensure that families suffering from this virus are taken care of, and this bill gets us closer to that goal.”
What the bill does:
- Free testing: Requires private health plans to cover coronavirus testing without copays. Waives Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP cost-sharing for coronavirus testing.
- Unemployment insurance: $1 billion in emergency grants to states for processing and paying unemployment insurance. Provides temporary flexibility to determine who qualifies for unemployment insurance.
- Paid leave: Requires private employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide 14 days of paid sick leave to full-time employees during a public health emergency. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees can apply for a hardship exemption from this provision. Reimburses companies that provide emergency sick leave with a 100 percent refundable tax credit. Provides an additional 10 weeks of Family Medical Leave Act to parents who have to care for a sick child whose day care or school has closed.
- Food security: $500 million for nutrition support for low-income pregnant women and mothers with young children (WIC program) who lose their jobs due to the virus. $400 million for local food banks. $250 million for 25 million additional home-delivered meals to low-income seniors. Authorizes states to provide emergency food stamp assistance. Authorizes USDA to issue nationwide school meal waivers during the emergency.