Having passed an emergency $8.3 billion funding package last week, today, House lawmakers introduced the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) would provide billions more in funding to combat the spread and impacts of the virus.
As written, H.R. 6201 would offer paid sick leave for workers affected by the virus, expanded food assistance, extended unemployment insurance, free coverage of coronavirus testing, and increased federal funding for state and territorial Medicaid costs. The measure would also provide emergency funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Commodity Assistance Program. Finally, the measure would require insurers, Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health programs to fully cover tests for the virus, among other provisions.
Upon the bill’s introduction, Congressional Republicans and the Administration criticized the bill as being too far reaching and broad in scope. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said she is willing to consider changes to the bill, but stressed the importance of coming to decisions immediately and not dragging out protracted negotiations.
“We don’t need 48 hours,” said Speaker Pelosi. “We just need to make a decision to help families right now.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi are working together on possible fixes with the Speaker noting that talks have produced some “very reasonable” suggestions for changes to the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced on Thursday that the Senate will remain in session next week despite the planned recess in order to address the House’s pending legislation. Once the House and Senate find agreement on this initial response package, they are expected to look at additional measures as the pandemic unfolds in the coming days/weeks.
NALC will continue to monitor the legislation’s movement on Capitol Hill to keep letter carriers informed.