Last week we were back in Washington to work on a large COVID-19 package. The Heroes Act provides a bold response to mitigate the economic impacts of this pandemic with special focus on state and local government relief. Because for me, states, counties, and cities declaring bankruptcy is not an option. This relief package is about keeping our local heroes employed: our brave police, firefighters, and first responders, who are on the front lines protecting us everyday.
Over the past few weeks, I've been working with federal, state and local leaders to ensure that this bill addresses Valley priorities. Here are some highlights of what I was able to help secure:
Improving healthcare for our Valley
After weeks of working with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I'm pleased to announce that I successfully secured $1 billion for medical school construction, expansion, and training in under-served areas in the Heroes Act. This would be critical to addressing doctor shortages in the Valley today and for the future.
In January, I introduced the Expanding Medical Education Act, which works to establish medical training in areas of high need, with priorities for funding given to institutions, such as UCSF Fresno and UC Merced, that focus on diverse and medically under-served communities.The need to enhance our healthcare capacity has never been more apparent.
Relief for cities & counties
Many cities and counties were left out of the first rounds of federal funding for COVID-19 relief. The Heroes Act provides the state of California and Valley communities with needed funding to pay our front line workers, like police, firefighters, and first responders, who provide essential, life-saving services to our residents. Over the next two years, California will receive over $47.4 billion in funding. More than $1.5 billion of that funding for CA-16 communities, including:
Fresno County - $561.8 million
Fresno City - $510.2 million
Merced County – $156.1 million
Madera County - $88.4 million
Merced City - $80.6 million
Madera City - $65.4 million
Los Banos - $19.7 million
Atwater - $14.5 million
Chowchilla - $9.2 million
Livingston - $7.1 million
Gustine - $2.8 million
Dos Palos - $2.7 million
While negotiations are ongoing, I'm hopeful that we'll see similar funding levels in an eventual bipartisan compromise.
Protecting Valley agriculture
As Chairman of the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee and a Senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, I've fought to ensure the Heroes Act helps our Valley's critical industry. Over the past month, I successfully brought together ag. organizations, other community leaders, and six other members of Congress to forge consensus on how to provide relief for our essential farmers and farm workers. We included the following measures, which go a long way to protecting our food supply chains:
$16.5 billion in direct payments to specialty crop, dairy, and livestock producers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
$100 million increase in the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
Temporary protected status and work authorization for undocumented farm workers and other essential workers in the food supply chain.
Hazard pay $13 per hours above their base wage and more access to paid family leave, sick leave, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for essential food workers.
$1 billion in emergency assistance to processing facilities that shut down because of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Other victories for the Valley:
The Heroes Act also provides critical support to protect the lives and livelihoods of our Valley residents and the American people. The challenge will now be to keep these important priorities in the bipartisan bill that we send to the President sometime in June:
For healthcare and our front line workers:
$2 billion to expand the Rural Health Care Program and bolster telehealth capacity.
Access to Workers’ Compensation coverage for federal employees with duties requiring substantial contact with the public that contract COVID-19.
$7.6 billion to support expanded health care services for under-served populations.
For workers and families:
Another $1,200 Individual Payment (up to $6,000 per household), with expanded eligibility for those who have a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) and dependents over the age of 17.
$7 billion for childcare providers to serve individuals who are required to work during the public health emergency or to stay afloat during temporary closures.
Emergency funding to ensure low-income families have access to drinking and wastewater services.
$25 billion for U.S. Post Office revenue forgone due to the pandemic and additional protections for postal workers.
Extension of $600 unemployment payments.
Ensured continuation of internet service and strengthens emergency broadband benefits, including the Lifeline program
$750 million to ensure the continuation of housing assistance for low-income individuals.
Additional $10 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
$4 billion to allow public housing agencies to keep over 2.2 million families stably housed.
$75 billion to states, territories, and tribes to address the ongoing needs of homeowners struggling to afford their housing.
For our students and schools:
$90 billion fund to support state and local public education, including communities in California.
$5 billion for the E-rate Program for schools and libraries to provide internet service to students and teachers, including Wi-Fi hotspots and prioritizing those without internet access at home.
For supporting small business:
$10 billion in funding for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grant program.
Expanded Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) eligibility to include nonprofits of all sizes.
Increased flexibility for PPP loans, including:
Extension of loan forgiveness from 8 weeks to 24 weeks.
Elimination of 75/25 rule on use of loan proceeds.
For strengthening social services:
$11.5 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants to address the impact of coronavirus among individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
$100 million for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs, including $30 million for grants to combat violence against women and $15 million for transitional housing assistance grants.
As wildfire season approaches, make sure PG&E has your updated contact information. PG&E strongly encourages everyone to do so by visiting their website or by calling the PG&E contact center at 1-866-743-6589.
If someone you know is unable or should not go to the grocery store, TakeCare has set up a grocery relief program, where you can get help and volunteer.
HAVE YOU LOST YOUR JOB?
The COVID-19 crisis has left millions of Americans unemployed. OnwardCA, built by Bitwise Industries in Fresno, is a great resource to help you find relief, training and jobs.
BEWARE OF SCAMS
Scammers never rest - even during a crisis. Various federal agencies and utility companies are issuing warnings about the possibility of scams and disinformation. Find out how to protect yourself. You can also track reports of existing scams here.
The American Red Cross is experiencing a severe blood shortage due to the coronavirus outbreak. I ask you if you're healthy to join me in giving blood to our local blood banks. It is a national emergency and a way we can all help out. Find out more on how to help.
Thank you for continuing to stay strong. Please don't hesitate to contact my office if you need assistance.