Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Focuses Coronavirus Response on Public Health Crisis

April 30, 2020
Press Release
Washington, DC—Over the past month, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) has been working hard to make sure that Federal, state, and local governments are best equipped to serve the healthcare needs of Americans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
“Congress must stay focused on serving the American people in the midst of the coronavirus public health care crisis. Essential to defeating this virus is contact tracing, testing, and isolation, ensuring personal protective equipment for our first responders and frontline healthcare workers, and strengthening our healthcare system to respond to those who are in need of care,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “The economy will not recover unless we stand together as Americans to defeat this virus.”
 
Last week, 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. 
 
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has constantly made frontline healthcare workers and first responders a priority, working to get them the PPE and resources they need. She 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 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.
 
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, which in the past has consistently failed to account for the unique costs of providing medical services in the state. 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 as Americans are already under great financial strain during the crisis. Rep. Gabbard has consistently prioritized fully funding Medicaid. This is all the more urgent as Hawai‘i’s healthcare system is under enormous additional stress from the COVID-19 coronavirus. She is fighting to lift the Medicaid cap to territories to ensure full coverage for all Americans, as well as preventing Medicaid funding rollbacks by states.
 
And, to ensure that our keiki still get the healthcare services they need, even as this pandemic strains our healthcare infrastructure, Rep. Gabbard — along with over 140 bipartisan Members of Congress — wrote 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. 
 
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.
 
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 4 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)
  • H.R.266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (on April 23)
 
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 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 social 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 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.
  
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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