As our country and Hawai’i and each and all of us and our families and communities continue to confront the COVID-19 crisis together, I returned to Capitol Hill this week for deliberations on Congress’ fourth emergency assistance measure since the beginning of March.
My U.S. House of Representatives just passed, with my yes vote, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. This $483 billion bill, which the Senate already passed and the President is expected to sign into law shortly, lends further critical support to the public health, economic and social consequences of this crisis.
This measure will fund another $383 billion to help our nation’s small businesses retain their employees and survive the worst of the crisis, for a total of $693 billion. It also provides another $75 billion, over the initial $100 billion, to assist our hospitals and health care providers to maintain the widest care and protect our health care workers and patients with personal protective equipment. It further provides another $25 billion to accelerate and expand quick and reliable COVID-19 testing.
Congress’ latest emergency assistance measure followed three prior laws since the outbreak of COVID-19 in our country and its widespread public health and economic devastation. The most recent was the CARES Act, a $2 trillion measure which became law on March 27th. That bill provided major assistance to our businesses, enhanced state unemployment benefits for our laid-off workers, provided for a direct economic impact payment to most Americans, and delivered major support to our state and local governments and health care providers.
For our Hawai’i, which thus far is faring better than most of our country in containing COVID-19 but is among the very hardest hit economically, these federal funds have been critical. Through the CARES Act, they total somewhere close to $5 billion here or on its way, and my Hawai’i congressional delegation colleagues and I are working very hard to assure that we benefit fully from this most recent measure as well.
All of this is good news. But I’m not going to rest on it and sugar-coat the incredible challenges we continue to face, the incredible needs still here and growing, and the incredible difficulties already experienced in getting this critical federal assistance to where it is needed most. The small business assistance has not gotten to enough of our small businesses fast enough; the unemployment benefits have not gotten to too many fast enough; the direct payments have arrived for many but are delayed for too many others; and our hospitals and health care providers are still working with unacceptable shortages of PPE and other conditions.
Please know that I and my staff in DC and Honolulu continue to dedicate ourselves completely to maximizing this critical federal assistance to Hawai’i and delivering that assistance to where it is most needed. There is full information on these funds, programs and opportunities on my website at case.house.gov together with the best ways to contact us. We stand ready to answer your questions, as we have already for thousands, and to assist you however we can through your own challenges.
It is also critical for me that I continue to keep in very close contact with you as to your thoughts so that I can represent our Hawai’i effectively and fully as Congress continues our own efforts. To this end, could you please take this online survey (click here) to let me know what you’re thinking. It will really help me in my own work. Please note that this survey is completely confidential; I cannot track it back to you.
The responsibility of representing our Hawai’i and you in our United States Congress weighs especially heavily in this very difficult time. I am grateful for your assistance, and know that we can and will come through this together.
Mahalo, and be well.
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