Kuster Calls on House and Senate Leadership to Act Immediately on COVID-19 Response Package
Washington, DC, March 21, 2020
**Kuster warns of dire consequences for inaction or delays in response**
Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is calling on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to act immediately with a robust COVID-19 response package to support New Hampshire's health care system, workers, families and small businesses. Kuster warned of the dire consequences of inaction. In the letter, Kuster urged House and Senate leadership to pass legislation as soon as possible to strengthen the local health response, support small businesses, protect American workers, boost access to health care and telehealth, and increase oversight and accountability.
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader, U.S. Senate
H-232, U.S. Capitol S-230, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C., 20500 Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McConnell:
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has strained America’s public health infrastructure and economy in unprecedented ways. In a few short weeks, hospitals and health clinics have seen a dramatic increase in patients with COVID-19 symptoms and are running out of resources, businesses have shuttered their doors in accordance with state and local health advisories and workers have been laid off or furloughed with little notice. It is imperative that Congress act with urgency to pass robust, bipartisan legislation this week that bolsters our local response to this health crisis and provides meaningful relief for small businesses and workers who have been upended by this pandemic.
Strengthen Local Health Response
First and foremost, we must stop the spread of this virus. The economic impact of COVID-19 has been profound, but economic stabilization will only occur once we curtail the spread. Hospitals and health providers in my district need additional supplies and resources, including personal protective equipment (PPE), test kits when appropriate, ventilators and a guarantee that these supplies also reach our rural providers. I’ve spoken with health care providers throughout my district who are alarmed by the amount of current available PPE and testing material. These resources are critical for the safety of health care professionals who are working to care for Granite Staters infected with this virus. Additionally, as a consequence of deferring elective procedures and focusing squarely on the COVID-19 outbreak, hospitals and Community Health Centers in New Hampshire are experiencing financial strain that further complicates their response to this crisis and ability to pay staff. Congress must include emergency financing to these cash-strapped providers, and enact a long-term reauthorization for Community Health Centers which is set to lapse on May 22, 2020.
Support Small Businesses
As social distancing and other preventive measures have disrupted our economy, Congress must enact legislation to keep small businesses and nonprofits afloat, while providing financial relief for workers who have been laid off or furloughed. In an effort to help slow the spread of this virus, many business owners have responsibly closed their doors and seen revenue dry up entirely, while expenses largely remain the same. With little cash on hand, businesses need immediate relief so they can cover their costs and retain as much cash on hand as possible. I encourage you to consider the proposal outlined by the House Small Business Committee which outlines 10-year terms of repayment, deferred payments in the first year, and loan forgiveness for businesses and nonprofits that utilize loan capacity for payroll.
Protect American Workers
While passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act importantly included over $1 billion in funding to states for unemployment insurance, the sharp increase in claims across the country necessitates additional funding to help those who have lost their jobs. Low-income families are most at need during this uncertain time and will face mounting economic challenges in the weeks and months ahead. In addition to bolstering unemployment insurance, Congress should consider direct cash payments to Americans and families with children who need it the most, with strict guardrails in place to ensure that assistance is targeted to those in need.
Boost Access to Health Care and Telehealth
The outbreak of COVID-19 has exposed vulnerabilities in both our economy and health care delivery system. As much as American families need financial support, they also need access to health care. Congress should take immediate steps to enact additional enrollment opportunities through the Affordable Care Act, expand Medicaid coverage for low and lower-income Americans, prohibit the issuance of junk health care plans, suspend the Medicare sequester and expand the availability for telehealth. I was proud to recently introduce bipartisan legislation, the Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalizations (RUSH) Act of 2020, which would increase access and use of telehealth services in skilled nursing facilities. Unnecessary hospital transfers can place a significant financial burden on providers and senior patients alike, and this bipartisan legislation will cut down on costs, and expand access to care for our most vulnerable communities through telehealth options – all while reducing high-risk patients exposure to COVID-19. I urge you to consider the inclusion of this legislation in a third coronavirus relief package.
Oversight & Accountability
Lastly, it is important that legislation reflects lessons learned from the 2008 financial crisis. The financial security of American families must come first and taxpayer dollars should never be used to bailout the irresponsible actions and risky behavior of large corporations. As Congress works to provide relief to America’s economy and major industries that have been negatively impacted, we should prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for corporate stock buy-backs, increases in executive and CEO compensation and laying off workers. Congress must ensure strict oversight and accountability measures for how taxpayer dollars are spent.
The situation in New Hampshire and across the country is dire. Inaction or delays in providing the support needed for our health care system, American small businesses, workers, families, and our economy will result in lives lost and financial ruin for many Americans. I urge the House of Representatives and Senate to act immediately to provide some certainty for our communities in these uncertain times. Delay is simply not an option.
Ann McLane Kuster
Member of Congress