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Higgins Announces Passage of Legislation to Address the Immediate Needs of Americans During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Mar 14, 2020
Press Release

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced House passage of H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in a broad bipartisan vote (363-40-1) The bill provides paid leave, establishes free testing, and provides important benefits to children, families and seniors. This comes after Congress approved $8.3 billion to address the urgent costs associated with testing and treating those with coronavirus and minimizing the growing impact of the virus last week.

“In times of a global health crisis such as this, it is critical we ensure our families and communities are protected from the economic strain brought on by being unable to live a normal life. Public health and safety are our number one priority,” said Congressman Brian Higgins.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that was first identified as a result of an outbreak in December 2019. Since the end of December there have been over 137,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide leading to more than 5,000 deaths.  Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of other respiratory illnesses, and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Patients can also subsequently develop pneumonia after contracting the virus.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act will provide funding for:

  • Free coronavirus testing for those who need a test, including the uninsured, and $60 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs for testing veterans;
  • Paid emergency leave with both two weeks of paid sick leave and up to 12 weeks of job protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for those affected by the coronavirus at most employers, including non-profit organizations;
  • Enhanced Unemployment Insurance, a first step that will extend protections to furloughed workers;
  • Strengthened food security initiatives, including $500 million for Women Infants and Children (WICC), $400 million for food banks, $250 million to provide 25 million additional home-delivered meals through the Senior Nutrition Program;
  • Increased federal funds for Medicaid, as states face increased costs;
  • Protection for small businesses, providing financial assistance through a tax credit to businesses that provide paid leave for their employees.

Earlier this week, in a letter, Higgins urged the FDA to fast track New York’s Coronavirus testing capacity by granting labs the ability to perform high-throughput testing of samples of COVID-19, which would expand the capacity of each lab to test thousands of samples per day.

Higgins has also been working with the federal delegation, state and local officials to provide relief for the State to account for increased Medicaid costs in relation to this crisis, securing a fair formula for increased federal funding of the state’s Medicaid program.

For the latest facts and information about coronavirus from local, state and federal resources visit Congressman Higgins’ website at: https://higgins.house.gov/issues/coronavirus-disease