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Herrera Beutler Introduces Bipartisan Bills to make Emergency Assistance Available During Coronavirus Outbreak

Legislation would make additional benefits – nutrition assistance, unemployment assistance and crisis resources – available to individuals impacted by novel coronavirus

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Washington, March 12, 2020 | comments
Last night, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) introduced two bills, the bipartisan Pandemic Response and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act and the bipartisan, bicameral Coronavirus Worker Relief Act, to help Southwest Washington communities impacted by the novel coronavirus.
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Last night, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) introduced two bills, the bipartisan Pandemic Response and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act and the bipartisan, bicameral Coronavirus Worker Relief Act, to help Southwest Washington communities impacted by the novel coronavirus.

“As more cases of the novel coronavirus are confirmed in Washington state, the Southwest Washington citizens I represent are already feeling the impact,” Herrera Beutler said. “This is why it’s imperative we have emergency resources to lessen the negative effects on families and workers in coronavirus-impacted communities. I’m joining my colleagues in introducing these two bipartisan bills to offer emergency support to residents who need food and nutrition assistance, unemployment assistance in the event they can’t work, and other crisis management tools.”

H.R. 6206, the PREP Act, which Herrera Beutler introduced along with Rep. Delgado (D-NY) and Rep. Titus (D-NV), would expand benefits available under federal Emergency Declarations to include critical nutrition assistance, unemployment assistance for unemployed and self-employed individuals, crisis counseling and case management. Currently, these benefits are only available following a Major Disaster Declaration by the president, but this designation is not applicable in the event of an infectious disease outbreak like the novel coronavirus. The PREP Act would allow the government to access additional resources to ensure the federal response aligns with the resources needed to address the novel coronavirus pandemic.

H.R. 6207, the Coronavirus Worker Relief Act is being led by Herrera Beutler and her colleagues, Rep. Kilmer (D-WA) and Rep. Rutherford (R-FL).  A companion bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Peters (D-MI), Young (R-IN), Schatz (D-HI), Romney (R-UT), and Hirono (D-HI). This legislation would ensure a broad array of workers impacted by the virus can access unemployment benefits. Eligible workers include those who have reduced work hours; are self-employed; and individual contractors who are unable to work because of illness, incapacity due to quarantine efforts, or family crisis as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak. This also includes individuals who are unable to work due to the immediate result of federal, state, tribal or local government response to the novel coronavirus.

Additional legislation information:

The Pandemic Response and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act would expand the menu of benefits available under federal Emergency Declarations to include the following:

  • Disaster SNAP (D-SNAP), to expand eligibility for food assistance to include SNAP recipients as well as those who experience lost or no income due to the novel coronavirus.   
  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance, to assist unemployed and self-employed individuals as well as individuals who lose wages because they are unable to report to work due to the novel coronavirus.  
  • Disaster Crisis Counseling, to provide funding to states and local governments to aid community outreach and recovery services.  
  • Disaster Case Management, to assist survivors with recovery plans that address unmet needs.

The Coronavirus Worker Relief Act would provide immediate assistance to workers by using existing Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authority to provide disaster unemployment assistance (DUA) for individuals impacted by the novel coronavirus. This legislation, in addition to providing for regular DUA benefits, would:

  • Categorize novel coronavirus as a major disaster for states that have a relevant Stafford Act Emergency Declaration for the purposes of DUA only.
  • Provide DUA assistance for workers, including self-employed individuals and independent contractors, who are sick, quarantined, furloughed, laid off, or whose individual or family circumstances have changed as a result of the novel coronavirus or government containment efforts.
  • Waive state waiting periods and work search requirements to ensure workers can get the assistance they need as soon as possible.
  • Set a minimum amount of assistance at parity with that of state unemployment compensation laws.
  • Assist states in the administration of this assistance.

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