Schakowsky Votes for Families First During Coronavirus Pandemic

March 14, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee released the following statement after voting to pass the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

“On Wednesday, House Democrats took leadership and introduced the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to provide a coordinated, government-wide response to keep us safe from the health and economic perils of the coronavirus pandemic. Though the recently-enacted emergency coronavirus supplemental of $8.3 billion is critical to our nation’s public health response, more support is clearly needed as the coronavirus spreads and deepens impacts on workers and families.

“Speaker Pelosi was able to bring the Trump Administration to the table to reach an agreement on this legislation to establish paid leave, free coronavirus testing, strong unemployment benefits, expanded food assistance programs for the vulnerable, protections for frontline health workers, and additional funding to states for the ongoing economic consequences of the pandemic. However, many people have already lost their jobs and this is just the first step we will take to provide relief to struggling Americans.

“I must note that anti-choice politicians in Congress and the Trump Administration reached an unconscionable low by trying to expand the reach of the Hyde Amendment into this coronavirus emergency relief bill. Ultimately, their shameful attempt was unsuccessful in expanding restrictions on abortion coverage because Democrats held firm, rejected this political ploy, and forced them to prioritize the needs of families during this public health emergency. Moving forward, we need federal spending bills without abortion coverage restrictions like the Hyde Amendment.”

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act bolsters the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak and addresses the severe impacts of the coronavirus on Americans’ personal safety and financial security through several key provisions:

  • Free testing for coronavirus: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act ensures that all individuals, including the uninsured, those with private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, VA, FEHBP, and TRICAREwill have access to tests at no cost.
  • Paid leave: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act establishes an Emergency Paid Leave Program that replaces a significant share of lost wages so that those who take leave to avoid spreading the virus or due to illness or caregiving responsibilities can pay their bills.
  • Enhanced, emergency unemployment measures: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act gives states the resources and flexibility to provide unemployment benefits to laid off and furloughed workers, as well as to those workers who exhaust their allotted paid leave. This measure also provides additional funding to help the hardest-hit states immediately and in the future if conditions worsen.
  • Expanding food assistance programs: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes more than $1 billion to provide nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women and mothers with young children, help local food banks meet increased demand for low-income Americans during the emergency, and provide home-delivered and congregate meals to low-income seniors. It also ensures that children who depend on schools’ free and reduce-priced meals continue to have access to nutritious foods in the event of school closures.
  • Protection for front-line health care workers: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard within one month that requires health care facilities to implement comprehensive plans to keep front-line health care workers safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Safeguarded and enhanced Medicaid benefits: In order to prepare for the potential for new Medicaid enrollees if people lose their jobs, and to assist states as they take on additional costs that have resulted from the virus, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act also increases the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) that the federal government provides to state and territorial Medicaid programs. This will prevent states from cutting benefits, reducing their Medicaid rolls or imposing greater premium and cost-sharing for enrollees.