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Sewell votes for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Congresswoman Terri Sewell during a committee hearing. Office of Rep. Terri Sewell

Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Selma, on Saturday commended the House passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The package includes many provisions to protect workers and stimulate the economy during the COVID-19 Coronavirus public health crisis.

“In the face of this ongoing pandemic, it is critical that the federal government is providing Alabama families with the funding and support they need to best tackle this crisis,” Sewell said. “The Families First Coronavirus Response Act will ensure every Alabamian who needs it has access to testing and care to prevent the spread of the disease; provide workers with two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave; strengthen food assistance; and increase federal funds for Medicaid to support state and local government efforts to combat this crisis.”

“I have been working to ensure Alabama has a coordinated response to the Coronavirus outbreak,” Sewell said. “I have been in communication with the head of the Alabama Department of Public Health and will meet again with him in Montgomery early next week. We are focused on making tests available to those who need them, removing unnecessary barriers to treatment and ensuring the state has the resources it needs to fight this pandemic.”

Included in the package is legislation Sewell introduced Thursday to provide Medicaid coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and the associated provider visit for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act also includes: Free Coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured; Paid emergency leave with both 14 days of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave; Enhanced unemployment benefits; Strengthened food security initiatives, including SNAP, student meals, seniors’ nutrition and food banks; as well as increased federal funds for Medicaid, as states face increased costs.

The legislation is in addition to the $8.3 billion emergency supplemental appropriations bill Congress passed last week to help states and public health providers address the Coronavirus.

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The bill requires private health insurers (plus government programs like Medicare and Medicaid) to cover the cost of testing, including emergency room visits and doctor fees.

The bill gives workers 14 days of paid sick leave to be available immediately during the coronavirus. It ensures sick leave to those impacted by quarantine orders, or those who must stay home to care for their children. The bill reimburses small businesses (those with 50 or fewer employees) for the cost of the 14 additional days of leave.

The bill would create a new federal emergency paid leave program for those unable to work because they have Covid-19, are quarantined, are caring for someone with the disease, or are caring for a child due to coronavirus-related school closings. Eligible workers would receive benefits for a month (the program goes up to three months), and the benefit amount would be two-thirds of the individual’s average monthly earnings. Those receiving pay or unemployment compensation directly through their employers aren’t eligible.

The bill directs $2 billion to state unemployment insurance programs and waive measures like work search requirements or waiting weeks to those either diagnosed with Covid-19, or those who have lost their jobs due to the spread of the virus.

The bill would direct $1 billion to expanding access to programs like SNAP, WIC and the emergency food assistance program throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

President Donald J. Trump (R) supported the bipartisan package that was negotiated by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

22 Alabamians have tested positive for the virus since Friday. To date 6,531 people have died in the global pandemic which has spread to over 156 countries in just ten weeks.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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