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House passes $7.7 billion supplemental funding package to address the coronavirus

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a robust emergency supplemental funding package to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the Coronavirus, the COVID-19 strain. The package – which provides $7.767 billion in emergency appropriations, more than triple the Administration’s original request.

“I voted ‘yes’ today to provide an additional $7.8 billion to fight the COVID-19 coronavirus strain,” Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, said. “I’m hopeful this funding will help America better prepare for and reduce COVID-19 fatalities that will otherwise occur should we not do everything we can to combat this highly contagious and once-in-a-century disease.”

“Each week I attend Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Department of Homeland Security briefings on the COVID-19 outbreak,” Brooks explained. “One message has been clear: no one knows for sure how far COVID-19 will spread nor what its fatality rate will be. There is simply too much uncertainty and educated guessing at this point. It does not help that COVID-19 statistics from two of the most impacted countries, Iran and China, cannot be relied on or trusted to be true. The good news once was that COVID-19, with its projected 2 percent fatality rate, did not appear to be as fatal as pandemic outbreaks of the past few decades (SARS, MERS, or the like). The bad news is that the World Health Organization yesterday announced a 3.4 percent fatality rate, which would make it worse than both SARS and MERS.”

“As I said yesterday, our hearts go out to those who have lost their loved ones and those who are currently undergoing treatment,” Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Saks, said. “This is a global event that requires a global response. I know many of our international partners are working diligently as part of a united effort to understand and address Covid-19’s spread. Unfortunately, some of the actions taken by other countries may have hindered a comprehensive response to this new virus. I remain concerned that Chinese officials knowingly withheld essential information from both the public and the international health community in the most critical stages of this outbreak. I’m sure that the early days of this outbreak will be under intense scrutiny once the crisis is over.”

“Alabamians are rightfully worried about the Coronavirus, especially given the Trump Administration’s slow, unclear and inadequate response thus far,” Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Selma, said. “They deserve a coordinated, fully-funded response to ensure they and their loved ones stay safe. This emergency funding is critical to combatting this public health crisis, including the development of a vaccine, and I hope it is quickly considered in the Senate and signed into law.”

“My deepest concern for the moment is the level of preparedness at the state and local level,” Rogers said. “I’ve heard directly from state and local responders, medical professionals, and emergency managers that are dealing with an increasingly concerned public.”

Rogers said that he is, “Interested in hearing from them (experts) what assistance frontline health professionals need from the federal government to effectively deal with this crisis.” “Hopefully, this funding will help speed along important diagnostic, treatment, and vaccination resources that will alleviate this crisis.”

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“We listened carefully to the agencies and experts on the front lines in crafting this package,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said. “Vice President Pence has been very helpful in this effort, and I appreciate President Trump’s eagerness to sign this legislation. I also want to thank Leaders McConnell and Schumer, Vice Chairman Leahy, Chairwoman Lowey, and Ranking Member Granger for coming together to do the right thing for the American people. We face this crisis together; we are fighting it together. Ultimately, I believe we will prevail together. But now is the time for action.”

“Vigorous action is needed to calm nerves, stabilize the situation, and get our arms around this crisis,: Shelby stated. “Congress must marshall the resources necessary for an aggressive, comprehensive, and swift response. I am pleased to report to my colleagues that we have reached a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on an emergency supplemental appropriations package to do just that. The agreement provides a surge in funding at every level – local, state, federal, and international – to meet the growing challenge we face. The total amount included in the package is $7.767 billion.”

“Nearly 85 percent of this funding will be spent right here in the U.S.,” Shelby explained. “$2.2 billion is for the Centers for Disease Control, including no less than $950 million to help state and local governments prevent and combat the spread of the virus. $836 million will go to the National Institutes of Health, to train health care workers on the front lines and to develop diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines related to the virus. $61 million will support the Food and Drug Administration’s role in approving such products. $3.1 billion is for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, to supplement the Strategic National Stockpile; develop and purchase diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines; provide resources for community health centers; and help hospitals and health systems adapt and respond. Another $300 million is made available for the purchase of additional diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines should further need arise. Finally, to fight the spread of the virus abroad, $1.25 billion is provided to the State Department and USAID to continue their work with our international partners.”

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The package has passed the House and is now before the Senate.

“When the package arrives in the Senate, I urge my colleagues to do the same so we can get help to those who need it and ease some of the anxiety stemming from this outbreak,” Shelby stated. “I think we owe it to the American people to do no less.”

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

 

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Jones introduces bill to encourage investments in minority-serving banks

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones

U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Tuesday introduced legislation that would encourage investments in banks that serve minority communities. 

“One of the biggest hurdles for minority entrepreneurs is access to capital,” Jones said in a statement. “That’s why this bill is so important. Increasing access to capital at the banks that serve minority communities will help expand financial opportunities for individuals and business owners in those communities.” 

Jones, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, in April urged the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury to support Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and minority-owned banks disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and he threw his support behind more federal funding for small community banks, minority-owned banks and CDFIs during the recent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) replenishment. 

According to a press release from Jones’s office, the bill would attract investments to those financial institutions by changing rules to allow “minority-owned banks, community banks with under $10 billion in deposits” and CDFIs to accept brokered deposits, or investments with high interest rates, thereby bolstering those institutions and encourage them to invest and lend in their communities. It would also allow low-income and minority credit unions to access the National Credit Union Administration’s Community Development Revolving Loan Fund.

“Commonwealth National Bank would like to thank Senator Jones for his leadership in introducing the Minority Depository Institution and Community Bank Deposit Access Act. As a small Alabama home grown institution, this proposal will allow us to accept needed deposits without the current limitations that hinder our ability to better serve the historically underserved communities that our institutions were created to serve. We support your efforts and encourage you to keep fighting the good fight for all of America,” said Sidney King, president and CEO of Commonwealth National Bank, in a statement. 

 “The Minority Depository Institution and Community Bank Deposit Access Act is a welcomed first step in helping Minority Depository Institutions like our National Bankers Association member banks develop the kinds of national deposit networks that allow our institutions to compete for deposits with larger banks and to better meet the credit needs of the communities we serve. The National Bankers Association commends Senator Jones’ leadership on this issue, and we look forward to continuing to engage with him on the ultimate passage of this proposal,” said Kenneth Kelly, chairman of the National Bankers Association, in a statement.

A recent report by the Brookings Institute highlighted problems minority-owned businesses had accessing federal COVID-19 relief aid from PPP loans. Researchers found that it took seven days longer for small businesses with paid employees in majority Black zip codes to receive PPP loans, compared to majority-white communities. That gap grew to three weeks for non-employer minority-owned small businesses, the report notes.

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The report also states that while minority-owned small businesses, many of which which are unbanked or underbanked, get approximately 80 percent of their loans from financial technology companies (fintechs) and online lending companies,  fintechs weren’t allowed under federal law to issue PPP loans until April 14.

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Sewell’s Caribbean trade bill passes House with unanimous support

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Tuesday, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Selma) applauded the passage of H.R. 991, a bipartisan bill, she introduced to reauthorize the U.S. Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA). The legislation passed the House by unanimous voice vote.

H.R. 991 extends the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act through 2030.

The CBTPA is a preferential trade agreement that provides for duty and quota-free access for apparel products manufactured in designated beneficiary Caribbean Basin region countries. CBTPA also requires that Caribbean Basin countries use U.S. formed yarns, fabrics, and thread. The CBTPA was first enacted in 2000 and is currently authorized through September 30, 2020. Eligible CBTPA countries include Barbados, Belize, Curacao, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

“As the lead sponsor of the legislation to reauthorize the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, I am thrilled that Congress is taking action on this issue before the program expires at the end of the month,” said Rep. Sewell. “CBTPA is such an important economic tool for the United States and each of our partner countries, and it is critical to our continued diplomatic relationships in the Caribbean Basin. The bipartisan effort to reauthorize this program will allow us to export more American-made goods and strengthen Western supply chains, while contributing to economic development and job creation in Haiti and other countries throughout the Caribbean Basin region. I am grateful for its passage by unanimous voice vote in the House, and I urge the Senate to take up this bill before the September 30th deadline. ”

“I am incredibly grateful for Congresswoman Sewell’s commitment to economic prosperity in the Republic of Haiti and the Caribbean region,” said Ambassador Herve Denis. “The Extension of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), H.R. 991, which has received bipartisan and bicameral support, is a testament to Congress’ unwavering support for working families in Haiti and CARICOM countries. This legislation has created countless jobs and generated billions of dollars in revenue over the past decade.”

“Furthermore, CBTPA would play a crucial role in strengthening the supply chains for PPEs and textiles in response to COVID-19, making America less dependent on nations outside the Western Hemisphere,” Herve said. “With the issues regarding China, Haiti hopes and expects to benefit from the “Near-Shoring” concept introduced by Congress. Together, we can continue to strengthen bilateral trade relations between two of the oldest republics in the Americas.”

“I’m proud to support our nation’s trade preference programs, which bolster further economic expansion in developing nations and support jobs here in America – a true win-win scenario,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), the Republican lead co-sponsor. “In particular, our bipartisan bill to extend the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act accomplishes that goal in the Caribbean, providing trade benefits to eight Caribbean nations, most notably Haiti. I want to thank Congresswoman Terri Sewell for partnering with me on this important legislation and urge the Senate to consider it without delay.”

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The Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) and the CBTPA are collectively known as the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). The two acts work together to facilitate the development of 17 independent countries of the Caribbean Basin region.

Eligible CBERA countries include: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

On September 4, the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) and National Cotton Council (NCC) sent a letter to the chairs and ranking members of two key congressional committees voicing their support for passing the reauthorization of the CBTPA.

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Terri Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District. She has no Republican opponent in the November 3 general election.

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Resources are available to persons damaged by Hurricane Sally, Roby says

Brandon Moseley

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A satellite image of Hurricane Sally. (VIA NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE)

Hurricane Sally struck on the Alabama Gulf Coast as a Category 2 Hurricane on September 16; but authorities, property owners, and farmers are still assessing the damage.

“As Hurricane Sally moved through Alabama last week, I remained in close communication with Governor Ivey’s office regarding recovery efforts, and she ensured us that the appropriate state agency resources will be available to our counties and municipalities in the Second District,” Congresswoman Martha Roby said. “My team also stayed in contact with leaders and elected officials across the district to communicate with them our readiness to assist.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with those throughout our state who have been affected by this powerful storm,” Rep. Roby added. “Please do not hesitate to reach out to one of my offices if you or someone you know needs assistance.”

“The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries launched a survey to gather information from farmers and producers who experienced agricultural damages due to Hurricane Sally,” Roby said. Separately, the Alabama Farmers Federation is also collecting information from affected farmers. For more information on disaster assistance, visit https://www.farmers.gov/recover.”

Prior to and after Hurricane Sally hit our state, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries has been hard at work to assist Alabama farmers and consumers. The Department is gathering information from farmers who experienced agricultural damage from the excessive winds, rainfall and flooding caused by Hurricane Sally. This information can be helpful to federal and state leaders in the aftermath of the storm.

To collect the most accurate damage assessments, the Department has established an online reporting survey to simplify the process for producers who have experienced agricultural damage. Producers should visit agi.alabama.gov/HurricaneSally to complete the survey.

Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate (R) said, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who experienced significant damage during this powerful hurricane. Alabama farmers have already faced economic hardships this year due to market instability, trade concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.”

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Many farmers had a crop that was ready for harvest. Many of those farmers lost that entire crop.
“Most of our farmers had as good a crop as we’ve ever seen, and it was so close to harvest for cotton, soybeans, peanuts and pecans,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “It’s devastating to lose a crop that had so much promise. Our farmers are great people who are assisting each other with cleaning up the damage, and we’re so grateful to everyone across the state who is helping in some way.”

According to the Department of Ag, reportable damage would include structural, crop and livestock losses. Producers are also encouraged to take photos of damage.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said, “Feeding the Gulf Coast has a number of distribution and pantry options for those in who need food assistance due to Hurricane Sally. You can find the locations on their website.” https://www.feedingthegulfcoast.org/find-help/find-a-pantry?fbclid=IwAR1i87s0pvDwhIhEaVA-63lGTYwMN5m10Ln9kbIiNHnaHrckoD5UII16S30

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‪”More information on registering with FEMA for damage related to #Sally,” Byrne added on social media. “If you have insurance, you should file a claim with them first before registering with FEMA. That will allow for the quickest response. Even if you have made a claim with your insurance company, you can still register for FEMA assistance.”

To apply for FEMA disaster assistance https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ or call 1-800-621-3362.

They eye of Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores; but the damage stretches across much of south Alabama and the western Florida panhandle. Baldwin, Mobile, and Escambia Counties have been declared a natural disaster by FEMA.

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Brooks supports DOJ decision to declare New York City an “anarchist jurisdiction”

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, on Tuesday said the New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and other “Socialist Democrat elected officials” have “Utterly failed to maintain law &order.” Brooks said that the lack of leadership has led the U.S. Department of Justice to declare New York City an “Anarchist Jurisdiction.”

President Donald Trump issued a memo ordering financial retribution against cities that he views as having bowed to violent mobs and slashed funding for their police departments.

“Socialist Democrat elected officials running some of America’s largest cities have utterly failed to maintain law & order— one of the most basic functions of government,” Rep. Brooks said. “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio have willfully allowed violent anarchists to rampage so badly that the U.S. Department of Justice has designated New York City as an “Anarchist Jurisdiction.” Let Cuomo and DeBlasio’s leadership failure be a warning to American voters everywhere. Placing feckless Socialist Democrats in charge is tantamount to turning your city over to violent anarchists.”

On Sunday, Attorney General Bill Barr announced that New York City, Seattle, and Portland have been named as “anarchist jurisdictions” by the Justice Department. The three cities are targeted to lose federal money for failing to control protesters and for policies defunding the police.

“When state and local leaders impede their own law enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to peacefully assemble and protest,” Barr said in a statement Monday. “We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance.”

“It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens,” Barr added.

White House budget director Russ Vought is set to issue guidance to federal agencies on withdrawing funds from the cities in less than two weeks.

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The DOJ said that the list of cities eligible for defunding will be updated periodically.

It is not yet clear what funds are likely to be cut. New York City gets $7 billion in federal subsidies.

New York City Council passed a budget this summer that cut $1 billion from the New York Police Department’s $6 billion annual budget despite growing violence in the streets.

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Mo Brooks represents Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. Brooks has no Democratic opponent in the November 3 general election.

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