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Cleveland.com: Making sure coronavirus stimulus dollars flow to the hardest-hit: Marcia L. Fudge

Cleveland.com: Making sure coronavirus stimulus dollars flow to the hardest-hit: Marcia L. Fudge

WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS, Ohio -- When the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, I supported the bill because I knew it was a great win for American businesses. I also appreciated that the legislation, passed by the House on April 23, made clear farmers are eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) relief and acknowledged that disparities in testing and other resources need to be assessed.
 
At the same time, I wondered when the Trump administration would treat all its citizens with the same concern and the same effort.
 
Yes, our businesses, especially our small businesses, need additional support. However, big banks shouldn’t have access to the additional Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and EIDL dollars for processing. In a class action lawsuit filed in California April 19, we’ve seen how big banks can cater to companies seeking larger loans, gaining revenue from processing fees, and leaving businesses seeking smaller and government-sponsored loans without the financial assistance promised.
 
While big banks took care of their friends, House Democrats remained focused on taking care of everyday people and small businesses like our mom-and-pop corner stores, barber shops, beauty salons, bars and restaurants, and, of course, our churches.
 
It was clear another relief package was needed to sufficiently protect business owners and nonprofits in the current climate.
 
Fortunately, last week the House passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, the fifth coronavirus relief package, making more funds available for nonprofits of all sizes and types, and small businesses, the bedrock of communities of color. The act is not perfect, but does more to meet the needs of Americans experiencing hardship.
 
The HEROES Act also includes language requested, but not included, in previous bills. The act addresses rising food insecurity with a 15% increase in the maximum SNAP (food stamp) benefit, and provides additional funding for food banks and other needed nutrition programs.
 
Legislation that considered the needs of vulnerable communities was long overdue. It was time for Congress to fight for the American people.
 
In this latest package, we fought to provide funds to meet the needs of teachers juggling students and their own families, local governments struggling to provide necessary services, care for seniors and homeless veterans, and farmers facing revenue losses due to market disruptions. The $1 trillion for state, local, territorial and tribal governments will help them pay critical workers and allow flexibility to address unanticipated lost revenue. Additional funds for teacher support and expansion of technology for students and teachers are also included.
 
We fought for health care workers by establishing a $200 billion Heroes’ Fund to ensure front-line workers receive hazard pay for risking their lives to care for our sick. It’s high time the people stocking shelves, delivering mail, collecting the trash, and keeping us fed are paid and treated as essential – not expendable.
 
The HEROES Act shows our commitment to fight for adequate coronavirus testing, contact tracing and treatment; support for renters and homeowners; and workplace requirements to keep employees safe.
 
We did not forget the disparate health and economic impact on communities of color, and made sure those living in the most impacted communities are engaged to conduct contact tracing. We remembered students in high-poverty urban and rural school districts lacking distance-learning resources like digital devices or high-speed internet. We also provided a pathway to compassionate release for incarcerated individuals living in unhealthy conditions.

 

Americans cannot wait for Congress to act. Our people and our communities need help now. I urge my Senate colleagues to move quickly to pass the HEROES Act and give families, small businesses, essential workers, and local governments the hand up needed to stay above water during and after this public health crisis.