Special Coronavirus Update – April 13, 2020
Rep. Lowenthal Special Coronavirus Update – April 13 – Fourth Relief Package, Minority Community Impacts, Public Health Updates
Special Coronavirus Update – April 13
In this update, I share what House leadership is seeking in a potential fourth assistance and relief package from Congress, the latest on direct cash payments to Americans, and the growing understanding that minority communities the hardest-hit by the crisis.
Also, last week I participated in a number of teleconferences with experts and elected officials on topics such as federal assistance and relief available to individuals and families, federal programs available to assist small businesses, and access to unemployment insurance in California.
Lastly, don’t forget to look at last edition’s poll results, and make sure you take the new poll in this edition.
Negotiations For An Interim Emergency Federal Relief Package Continue
House Democrats last week put forward the framework for a fourth federal assistance and relief package that would serve to bolster the CARES Act passed last month by the House. While bipartisan negotiations continue, I support Democrats’ push to include:
- $250 billion in additional assistance to small businesses, with $125 billion channeled through community-based financial institutions that serve family, women, minority, and veteran-owned small businesses and nonprofits across our country. We also must make improvements to ensure all eligible small businesses can access this critical funding and are not turned away by banks;
- $100 billion for hospitals, community health centers, and health systems, to provide desperately needed resources to the frontlines of this crisis, including production and distribution of national rapid testing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE);
- $150 billion for state and local governments, to ensure that they can respond to the crisis, in spite of billions in lost tax revenue;
- Strong additional support for families with a 15 percent increase to the maximum SNAP benefit to help put food on the table for the most vulnerable Americans.
IRS: Stimulus Checks Being Disbursed
The Internal Revenue Service has reported that the first wave of direct cash stimulus payments, part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress in March, has begun to be deposited in Americans’ bank accounts. The IRS said in an April 10 tweet that “#IRS deposited the first Economic Impact Payments into taxpayers’ bank accounts today. We know many people are anxious to get their payments; we’ll continue issuing them as fast as we can.” For those without direct deposit, the IRS expects to start issuing paper checks the week of May 4.
To learn more about the relief payments, go to the IRS Economic Impact Payment website.
Minority Populations Hardest Hit by Crisis
As this crisis continues, data is showing that minority and low-income communities are some of the hardest hit and are disproportionately impacted by the disease. While less than a dozen states are currently reporting demographics on COVID-19 cases and deaths, black Americans account for more than 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. where the race of victims has been made publicly known. Similar disproportionate numbers for black and Hispanic Americans have also been seen in some of the nation’s hardest hit cities, such as New York City, Chicago, and Detroit.
Leading health experts are pointing to the prevalence of underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease among black and Hispanic populations, as one explanation of these higher rates. A lack of access to regular healthcare services in minority communities is also being suggested by experts as a factor.
Other experts have also pointed to a high percentage of minority and low-income Americans working in some of the highest risk essential jobs such as nurse aides, grocery store clerks, emergency dispatchers and public transportation employees who cannot telecommute.
Because of these reports, I joined with five of my California Delegation colleagues on Friday, April 10, to send a letter to California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly asking the state to prioritize the collection and release of demographic data on COVID-19 infections and mortality, as well as to address the underlying drivers of these disparities.
Keeping In Touch Remotely
As I have from the beginning of this crisis, I continue to participate in regular calls led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi with my Democratic colleagues, regular calls with the California Congressional delegation, and daily calls with the Orange County State/Federal Delegation and with Governor Newsom’s office. I am also in constant communication with our city officials, such as Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, and in regular contact with our public health officials, health care providers, and emergency responders.
On Thursday, April 9, I hosted a telephone roundtable with constituents on the assistance and relief programs available to Orange County small businesses impacted by the coronavirus crisis. Joining me on the call to discuss the topic and answer caller questions were three expert panelists on small business: Mike Daniel, the Regional Director of the Orange County Inland Empire Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) Network; Katrina Payne Smith, the Associate Regional Director of the Orange County Inland Empire SBDC Network, and Claudia Moreno, the Southern California Outreach Manager of the Small Business Majority.
On my website you can listen to the hour-long call in its entirety and find links to the small business resources mentioned during the call. I also maintain a page on my site featuring numerous other links to assistance and relief resources for small businesses.
On Friday, April 10, I joined with California State Senator Lena Gonzalez and Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell on a constituent telephone conference call with more than 1,000 callers, where I provided an update on the federal response to COVID-19. We were also joined by George Warner from Legal Aid at Work, who did an amazing job explaining the current situation with unemployment insurance in California and how his organization helps many individuals across LA County apply for unemployment insurance through the California Employment Development Department. We also discussed various resources available to individuals impacted by COVID-19 and the need for additional funding from the federal government to support small businesses, sole proprietorships, and undefended contractors and gig economy workers, as well as teachers, schools and health care workers. A live recording of the call is available by clicking here. I want to thank my colleagues in the State Legislature for their advocacy, and for inviting me to participate on the call.
Also on Friday, I participated in the webinar series “Living With Autism” hosted by the Orange County Autism Foundation where I joined a panel of experts to discuss how to help our disability community navigate the world during the COVID-19 crisis and talk about practical solutions to improve the lives of the over 120,000 autistic children in the state and their families. While I provided an update on federal assistance programs, Dr. John Saito of Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) gave updates on COVID-19 and prevention, Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones gave an update on city operations and local resources, and Garden Grove Unified School District board member Lan Quoc Nguyen gave an update on distance learning for students and free meal programs. You can listen to a livestream of the event on the OC Autism Foundation’s Facebook page by clicking here.
While working remotely is required, I will continue to participate in these types of outreach efforts to help inform and stay in touch with my constituents.
LAST EDITION’S POLL RESULTS
What do you think of the measures taken by the California state government to slow the spread of coronavirus?
22% -- Have not gone far enough
65% -- Have been appropriate
8% -- Have gone too far
3% -- Don't know/Unsure