Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Discusses Spike in COVID-19 Infections, Concerns With Lifting 14-day Travel Quarantine, and Emergency Assistance During Tele-Town Hall
July 8, 2020
Honolulu, HI — This afternoon, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) hosted a tele-town hall meeting to update Hawai‘i residents about COVID-19. She was joined by guests Darin Leong, a labor and employment attorney who has worked with Hawai‘i community leaders to raise awareness about relief programs available to businesses and employees, as well as Dr. Scott Miscovich who has been working with communities across the state to provide COVID-19 testing and improving the state’s testing capacity.
This was the fifteenth coronavirus-related, virtual town hall Rep. Gabbard has hosted since the pandemic began to impact Hawaiʻi.
“With a majority of states across the country experiencing dramatic increases in positive COVID-19 cases, including Hawai‘i, we must take necessary precautions to contain and defeat the virus in our state. It is critical that we all take this seriously through individual actions like physical distancing and wearing a mask, to protect our loved ones and our communities. In addition, as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our nation, the decision to lift the 14-day travel quarantine must be delayed to prevent unnecessarily heightened risk for the people of Hawai‘i,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Now is not the time for complacency. We must continue to increase our testing capabilities, as well as contract tracing. This is going to be a challenge as medical supplies are stretched thin as COVID-19 cases surge across the country, but it’s a challenge we must overcome. We’ve lost ground in the last couple weeks but together, we can rein in this virus and protect Hawai‘i.”
Rep. Gabbard began the call with an update on the continuing COVID-19 pandemic amidst a surge in cases both in Hawai‘i and across the nation. She highlighted the recent extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and emphasized the importance of testing and contact tracing, the key to identifying infections quickly and stopping the spread of the virus.
Darin Leong gave an update on the help available to small businesses and employees, and answered questions about how to access Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), the help available for sole proprietors, and assistance for small businesses.
Dr. Scott Miscovich discussed testing across the state. He expressed his grave concerns about news that just broke today that lab capacity is significantly decreasing as a direct result of the increased cases occurring on the mainland which has strained testing lab supplies — drawing them away from Hawai‘i.
He echoed the Congresswoman’s notes to take the pandemic seriously and practice physical distancing and frequent handwashing. He answered questions from callers on issues related to testing for travellers — noting that those who are returning from travel should act as if they are infected until proven otherwise — and the availability of testing. He also thanked Rep. Gabbard and the Hawai‘i congressional delegation for their efforts supporting funding for testing at community health centers.
Rep. Gabbard answered questions about federal assistance available to individuals, testing availability and locations, and how to stay safe. She also discussed her ideas on what is needed at the federal level to address the pandemic, including increasing testing and contact tracing resources, and extending assistance to small businesses and individuals as the COVID-19 public health crisis in the state surpasses 20 weeks.
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 virtual town hall events including public officials and community leaders to provide updates and directly answer constituent questions.
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 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, 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, she introduced H.R.6609 with Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) which directs the President to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to acquire and manufacture necessary components, materials, and supplies to conduct molecular and serological COVID-19 medical testing nationwide.
In May, she introduced H.R.6809, the Nurse Workforce Protection Act, with Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13). The bipartisan bill would prevent a healthcare provider receiving COVID-19 federal assistance from furloughing, reducing the salary, or reducing the hours of its nurses more than 25% as well as prevent them from forcing them to use paid vacation days.
She has fought to make sure that Economic Stimulus Payments get to individuals quickly. She called for a rule change to enable recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and non-taxable VA benefits (VA Disability Compensation and Veterans Pension) to more easily obtain their recovery rebates. She also called upon the Department of the Treasury to to prohibit financial institutions from garnishing the economic impact payments to pay debts owed, ensuring that taxpayers receive their direct cash payments as Congress intended. She continues to advocate for a monthly direct basic payment to continue for as long as this healthcare crisis continues.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has continued to work to make sure that much-needed medical supplies, testing, and personal protective equipment (PPE) are readily available and 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.
After slamming the Administration for their now-rescinded decision to implement a hard stop at 89 days of duty in late May, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sent a letter to the President, Secretary of Defense, and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator demanding that the National Guard personnel — who have been critical in the fight against COVID-19 nationwide — receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
She has fought to prevent utility shut offs during this difficult time and has asked Congressional leadership to prioritize programs supporting individuals experiencing homelessness.
Congresswoman Gabbard has called for additional funding to support shelter and transitional housing services for survivors of domestic violence. She has also cosponsored legislation that addresses the significant risk to incarcerated individuals posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She also urged House Leaders to support essential workers and to adopt labor rules that would ensure they receive full pay as they work to serve others during the pandemic. She also called for first responders and emergency service workers to receive hazard pay as well as additional resources for supplies — especially PPE — so they can keep safe while protecting Americans during this crisis. Rep. Gabbard has called for specific provisions to protect frontline healthcare workers, including financial assistance, preventing pay cuts, and protecting these critical workers against retaliation for things like wearing their own personal protective equipment or whistleblowing on unsafe practices in their facilities.
Noting the unique vulnerability of nursing home residents during this public health emergency, on June 5, Rep. Gabbard called upon Heath and Human Services Secretary Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Verma to address the needs of nursing homes for testing kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), and sufficient staff to respond to the pandemic.
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. She recently joined her colleagues in the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) to urge the Administration to make translated materials available on all official federal websites that have information related to COVID-19 and any of the benefits programs created to address this pandemic to ensure that everyone has access to these resources.
She also 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 support for SNAP and WIC. She continued 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.
In late May, as the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program opened, Rep. Gabbard co-led a letter calling on the USDA to expand and include more Hawai‘i crops and farmers in what is covered by the program. She also led a letter signed by Members of the House representing Hawai‘i and the U.S. Island Territories to U.S. House leaders urging them to support local crop diversity and food security in upcoming emergency legislation responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis. In early June, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded $498,759 to the University of Hawai'i Maui College for developing sustainable aquaponics systems for food security and community resiliency in Hawai‘i.
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.
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.
Rep. Gabbard led a letter with Rep. Ed Case (HI-01) that urged the House Ways and Means Committee leaders to provide more funding for Hawai‘i through the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. And, to help protect our kūpuna who rely on prescription medications, she and over 50 of her colleagues called on House Leaders to take legislative action to cap prescription drug prices. She fought to lift the Medicaid cap to territories to ensure full coverage for all Americans, as well as prevent Medicaid funding rollbacks by states. To protect our keiki she joined a bipartisan letter to House Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy calling for specific relief for children’s hospitals. Rep. Gabbard also recognizes the importance of not-for-profit blood centers in our healthcare system, and is committed to ensuring that blood centers can continue to provide lifesaving blood components to patients in communities across the country.
Securing Emergency Funding
On May 15, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted to pass H.R.6800, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. Though she expressed grave concerns with the massive bill and how it was put together, she supported the legislation because it would provide urgently needed aid to state and local governments to improve testing and tracing efforts as well as another direct stimulus payment to Americans. In particular, the bill provides support to Counties in Hawai‘i that had not received direct assistance in past emergency legislation. It also closed loopholes and clarified discrepancies in previous emergency funding bills.
The HEROES Act would also fund personal protective equipment (PPE) purchases for frontline workers as well as hazard pay to essential and frontline workers. The bill would ensure smaller businesses get relief resources, extends the $600/week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation as well as the Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation for gig economy employees. Finally, it included Native Hawaiians in funding provisions for education, employment as contact tracers, mortgage payment assistance, and housing block grants.
To date, Congress has passed 5 emergency funding bills that have been signed into law:
S.4116, a bill that would extend the Paycheck Protection Program lending deadline from June 30 to August 8 (on July 1)
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)
H.R.266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (on April 23)
H.R.7010, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (May 28)
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act provided urgently needed, immediate funds to help with the initial impact of the virus on America. Rep. Gabbard 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 included 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 included 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 late April, Rep. Gabbard traveled to Washington, D.C. in the middle of the pandemic to vote on the fourth COVID-19 emergency funding bill. While carefully adhering to physical distancing rules and additional health precautions taken by House leadership, she voted to pass the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. The bill provided $310 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program — including $30 billion set aside for community-based lenders, small banks and credit unions and $30 billion for medium-sized banks and credit unions. The bill also included $50 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and clarifies that small farms are eligible for this funding. Finally, the bill also addressed the continuing public health crisis by providing $75 billion in funding to support hospitals and frontline healthcare workers, including funding for PPE, as well as $25 billion for COVID-19 testing.
In late May, Rep. Gabbard voted to pass the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act which provides additional flexibility for small businesses to use PPP loan funds to make qualifying expenditures for loan forgiveness. She was a cosponsor of the bill.
At the beginning of July, the House passed S.4116, a bill that extended the Paycheck Protection Program lending deadline from June 30 to August 8. The bill was signed into law by the President in the following days.
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. Also in April, FEMA announced another round of disaster relief funds, $100 million available to all 50 States and U.S. Territories.
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.
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 17 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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