House Democrats, White House reach deal on coronavirus relief package

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Alex Brandon / AP

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, left, and Vice President Mike Pence, right, speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden at the White House, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Washington.

Sat, Mar 14, 2020 (12:30 p.m.)

House Democrats, hours after President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency, passed a comprehensive package of legislation late Friday to fight the spread of the coronavirus across the country.

All of Nevada’s representatives voted for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

“The coronavirus pandemic requires action from every level of government and mindful measures to be taken by the public,” Nevada Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said in a statement. “Our bill will ensure that coronavirus tests are free for everyone who needs one so that concerns about cost do not lead to wider spread of this disease.”

The package was introduced Wednesday, though negotiations with between House Democrats and the White House held up a final vote until Friday evening. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., along with other members of congressional Democratic leadership, stressed the House would vote on the package regardless of whether or not a deal was struck with the White House.

Trump took to Twitter Friday to stress he supported the bill, and ultimately, the bill was passed with Republican support in the House: 137 Republicans voted for the bill, with 39 voting against it. It will now head to the Senate, which called of its previously scheduled recess next week due to the continuing spread of the virus.

The bill tackles multiple issues meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has been found in most of the states across the country and triggered multiple cancellations and suspensions of major public events. Some of the bill’s actions are as follows:

• Allows any individual who needs a test for coronavirus to receive one for free, regardless of the individual’s insurance status.

• Provides two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave. 

• Increases resources for unemployment benefits provided to states for qualified workers.

• Allocates $1 billion for food programs to help low-income pregnant women and mothers of young children, food banks and low-income seniors.

• Increases the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, the percentage rate used to determine matching funds for social and medical programs like Medicaid.

Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, introduced a bill that was incorporated into the package, the Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act, which would send $5 million in unemployment assistance to Nevada immediately. If the state sees “very significant” job loss, according to Horsford’s office, a further $5 million, along with 100% funding for extended benefits, will be sent to Nevada.

“I think because we are tourism-based economy and we have major conventions and other sport events and activities that make us the destination of the world, when there is an impact – I’m not hoping for one, but if there is an impact, obviously it will affect Nevada jobs,” Horsford said. “We need to be prepared. I’m preparing for the worst, but I’m hoping for the best.”

Nevada Rep. Susie Lee, D-Henderson, introduced a bill earlier this week that would expand the number of workers who can take job-protected leave, and the legislation was ultimately wrapped into the package that passed Friday night.

In a statement earlier this week, Lee touted her bill that would expand how many workers were able to take paid leave from their jobs. She said it was time for Congress to “step up and fulfill its solemn duty of protecting the American people.”

“Right now, all of the medical experts are telling workers to stay home if they’re sick, but for millions of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, that’s just not an option,” Lee said in a statement. “We need to ensure workers that they won’t lose their jobs because they made the responsible decision to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19. Southern Nevada is one of the travel and tourism capitals of the world, with thousands of service, hotel, and hourly workers who are worried about making the unfair choice of going to work for their livelihood or staying home for their health and the health of the public.”

Rep. Titus, in a statement after the bill’s passage, said that this was not the end of Congress’s work.

“We believe that another emergency response package will eventually be necessary – and we will craft it in consultation with our nation’s leading health care professionals, scientists, and economists. I urge all Nevadans to continue to follow guidance from the CDC,” she said.

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