Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Experts Answer Questions On Economic Impact Payments, Census On Telephone Town Hall
April 22, 2020
Washington, DC—This afternoon, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) hosted her sixth coronavirus-related weekly telephone town hall from Washington, DC, where she arrived yesterday to vote on emergency coronavirus funding. She was joined by Shawna Lamothe, David Tucker, and Gayvial James from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Sharlette Poe from the U.S. Census Bureau. Rep. Gabbard and her guests gave an update on the Census and the federal coronavirus crisis response and took live questions from callers.
“As economic hardships reach more and more of Hawaiʻi’s residents and businesses, and as systems at agencies like the IRS or Hawaiʻi’s unemployment office are overwhelmed by demand like they never before, people have very specific questions that need answers,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “We are thankful to have great guests like Shawna, David, Gayvial, and Sharlette on our telephone town halls to answer those questions directly to get people the information they need.”
In her opening remarks, Congresswoman Gabbard gave an update on a major vote that is expected in the House tomorrow, on a $483.1 billion emergency aid package, with the vast majority of that money in funding for small businesses largely through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, a key program for small businesses in Hawai‘i to whether this crisis. The legislation also includes funding for hospitals and for testing, both critical as we look for a path forward.
Shawna Lamothe, David Tucker, and Gayvial James from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) each gave an overview from their respective areas of responsibility. Callers got updates on the status of Economic Impact Payments -- payments to individuals that were allocated by the CARES Act. The IRS is working quickly to get these payments to taxpayers in Hawai‘i and across the country. Congresswoman Gabbard and her guests discussed the Economic Impact Payments now being sent out through the IRS, and emphasized the helpful resources the IRS has provided on their coronavirus webpage: irs.gov/coronavirus/, including many frequently asked questions.
Callers were also reminded that the deadline to file taxes has been extended from April 15 to July 15. The IRS has additional resources to assist taxpayers, and Gayvial James explained the role of the Taxpayer Advocate Service, a Congressionally-mandated independent organization within the IRS to help navigate the IRS and assist taxpayers with issues.
Sharlette Poe gave an update on the U.S. Census, which is a once in a decade chance to impact the distribution of federal money, including funding for schools, roads and transportation, community health centers, first responders, ethnic and cultural programs, and more. In-person outreach has been suspended, and the deadline to respond to the census has been extended to October, giving everyone a chance to respond. For those in rural communities who do not receive home mail delivery, census workers will come to your residence when it is safe to do so. For those who have received their census information, you can respond online at 2020Census.gov or by phone: 1-844-330-2020.
Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and her team have been working since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis to bring more resources home to Hawaiʻi, while also keeping Hawaiʻi residents informed through a resource hub on her website, regular e-newsletter updates, and weekly telephone town hall events including public officials and community leaders to provide updates and directly answer constituent questions. This week’s telephone town hall was the sixth held since the beginning of the crisis.
Protecting and Providing for Americans During the Crisis
In early March, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced H.Res.897, a resolution that would provide an emergency non-taxable Universal Basic Payment of $1,000 per month to all adult Americans until COVID-19 no longer presents a public health emergency. She was the earliest Member of Congress to introduce legislation for a Universal Basic Income-like payment as a temporary economic stimulus package to directly and immediately help Americans as they weather this crisis.
In March and early April, she cosponsored H.Res.908, a resolution which draws attention to the increased anti-Asian bigotry being witnessed during the coronavirus crisis and calls on the Federal government to work with state and local law enforcement to confront and prosecute hate crimes related to this, as well as reached out to U.S. Departments/Agencies, Congressional Leaders, and mortgage lenders to urge them to take measures that respect the hardships faced by individuals and families during this pandemic including a halt to all foreclosure and eviction proceedings and urging support for SNAP and WIC. She continues to call for direct support for those that are most in need in the relief bills before Congress, including farmers, ranchers, military families, rural communities, those living paycheck to paycheck, and the communities that rely on the tourism industry for their livelihoods. She also urged House Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy to increase the resources available for small business lending from credit unions which are a critical asset to Hawai‘i’s small business community.
Following up for Hawai‘i’s farmers, in April, she helped lead a Hawai‘i delegation letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue asking him to ensure USDA support prioritizes specialty crops, livestock, and producers supplying farmers markets, restaurants, and schools. She also joined a broader, bipartisan letter to Sec. Perdue drawing attention to this strain on specialty crop farmers.
Rep. Gabbard has continued to work to make sure that much-needed medical supplies, testing, and personal protective equipment (PPE) are readily available and recently sent a letter requesting that the Trump Administration prioritize working with our trading partners to ensure medical providers can obtain needed equipment quickly. She also sent a letter to the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services calling for the Departments to ensure access to PPE for essential childcare providers.
In March, working with Hawai‘i’s Congressional Delegation, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sent two letters calling on President Trump to support Hawai‘i’s request for medical equipment, supplies and resources for the state.
In April, Rep. Gabbard was an original cosponsor of H.R.6467, the Coronavirus Community Relief Act, which would provide $250 billion for local governments, like those in our neighbor island communities, to help cover costs caused by COVID-19 between March 1 and December 30 of this year. She also called for robust emergency funds to ensure that the U.S. Postal Service will be able to continue to serve communities across Hawai‘i through this crisis.
Securing Emergency Funding
To date, Congress has passed 3 emergency funding bills:
H.R.6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (on March 4)
H.R.6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (on March 14)
H.R.748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (on March 27)
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act provided urgently needed, immediate funds to help with the initial impact of the virus on America. She voted to pass this bill which included funds for 14 community health centers in Hawai‘i which received more than $750,000 combined in support.
Next, she voted to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to provide free testing for COVID-19, two weeks of paid sick leave, up to three months paid family and medical leave, unemployment insurance for furloughed workers, food security for those who rely on food stamps, student meals, senior nutrition plans, and food banks, and increase federal Medicaid funds for local, state, tribal and territorial governments and health systems.
The CARES Act includes direct cash payments to Americans, assistance for those who are out of work due to the outbreak, funding for small businesses, hospitals, and health care workers, and state and local governments. The bill’s funding for state and local governments includes at least $1.2 billion for Hawai‘i. Though the bill included Rep. Gabbard’s idea for a direct benefit payment to support Americans reeling from the pandemic’s impact, it fell short of the full scope suggested in her legislation, H.Res.897, and she urged Congress to do more.
In the weeks following the passage of the CARES Act, Hawai‘i received over $142 million in emergency funds to help support healthcare providers. This included more than $10 million in additional funds to the 14 community health centers which received funds after the first emergency bill as well as $132 million to other healthcare providers across the State to help cover the costs they are incurring due to the crisis. However, this $132 million came with the stipulation that these healthcare providers may not engage in “surprise billing” of patients they have treated for COVID-19.
Also, Hawai‘i received over $107 million in funds through the CARES Act to support public transportation systems, community public health infrastructure, and housing for vulnerable communities by way of Federal Transit Authority grants, Community Block Development Grants (CDBGs), and the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program.
By mid-April, the CARES Act continued to yield funds for Hawai‘i, including an estimated $88 million for Educational purposes and over $133 million for its airports. The Educational funds will help support K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities. This includes a separate fund of $154 million for the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Furthermore, FEMA announced another round of disaster relief funds, $100 million available to all 50 States and U.S. Territories which can apply for funding by April 28.
Calls for Preventative Measures
In early April, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard called for the resignation of Hawai‘i Department of Health officials Bruce Anderson and Dr. Sarah Park because of their repeated failures that put the health, lives and well-being of the people of Hawai‘i at risk. She added that should they refuse to step down, Governor Ige should fire them.
On March 21, Rep. Gabbard called for an immediate implementation of a 14-day self-quarantine for all passengers arriving in Hawaiʻi, both visitors and returning residents. The state later announced that a self-quarantine requirement would be implemented on March 26, but Rep. Tulsi Gabbard continued to advocate for an immediate implementation. She also sent a letter calling on the President to issue a minimum two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order — a proven, effective solution to slowing the spread of the virus.
As the virus was first spreading in different parts of the world, Rep. Gabbard called on the Trump Administration to suspend flights from South Korea and Japan given the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in these countries, until they could guarantee all passengers would be tested prior to boarding flights to the United States.
Rep. Gabbard also wrote to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calling for clear guidelines for state and local governments to receive federal reimbursement for the costs they are incurring as part of their response to this public health crisis.
About Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawai‘i’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for over 16 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major. Learn more about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard...
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