Tester, Daines join bipartisan passage of coronavirus response bill
Montana's two U.S. Senators on Wednesday joined a bipartisan effort to pass the second phase of a coronavirus relief package, this one aimed at providing resources ranging food to healthcare.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed on a 90-8 vote and will be signed by the president, who already has endorsed the measure. A financial relief package could follow in the days to come.
“This bill ensures Montana families don’t have to choose between their health and a paycheck, waives costs for testing and protects some of our most vulnerable during this hard time,” said Sen. Steve Daines. “We’re already working hard on next steps in the Senate on a major economic recovery package, which will provide additional relief for our working families, workers and small businesses.
Wednesday's bill waives testing for coronavirus, provides $1 billion in emergency unemployment insurance benefits, and provides up to two weeks of paid leave for employees who work at companies with less than 500 workers.
The act also provides more than $1 billion in food assistance, including $400,000 for local foodbanks and $500 million for the Women, Infants and Children program. Senior nutrition programs will also receive $250 million.
“This package is a critical step forward that delivers much-needed support to Montana workers, veterans, Tribes, and families in the face of this outbreak,” said Tester. “It provides emergency unemployment benefits for Montanans who are out of work, it will help ensure students can still get meals while schools are closed, and it guarantees that COVID-19 testing will be free, regardless of whether you’re insured or not. “
The first phase of the package, passed earlier this month, included funding for the CDC to make testing more available and help states and local governments ramp up their preparedness.
Tester added that more work must be done.
“We have a lot more work to do, so Congress needs to put politics aside and keep working on solutions that will keep Montana families, businesses, and communities secure,” he said.