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Cole Statement on House Passage of the CARES Act

March 27, 2020
Press Release

Moore, OK – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act by voice vote. Cole is Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Due to a physician-recommended self-quarantine that is still underway, he could not be present for today’s vote.

“It is not lost on me how consequential this legislation is for our nation. Along with many of my colleagues, I wish I could be there in person to voice my support for this historically massive and wide-reaching legislation,” said Cole. “But despite many member absences in our chamber, that doesn’t make the House of Representatives any less united in our support of this significant relief package for the American people, who are greatly suffering by no fault of their own due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The natural disaster caused by COVID-19 is unlike any other our nation has encountered in modern history. Its impact is severely felt across the whole of society – causing an unprecedented strain on our public health defenders and medical providers as well as sharp economic losses and unexpected disruptions for Americans of all stripes.

“Hardworking Americans, families, communities, small businesses and numerous industries have been hit hard and fast in a matter of days and weeks. Given the enormous scope of this disaster, its consequences and the damage already done, it is critically important to get help to those Americans facing difficult times. I am encouraged that the CARES Act extends a much needed helping hand.

“To help individuals and families weather this storm, the CARES Act provides financial assistance in the form of direct cash payments and unemployment support. The legislation provides unprecedented help to sustain small businesses and their workers, after many businesses on Main Street have been forced to close their doors to comply with the guidance and orders from federal, state, local and tribal officials.

“For our health workers fighting on the front lines across the nation, this relief package replenishes vital medical supplies like masks, respirators and other equipment. Moreover, it provides reinforcement supplies and resources for state and local response efforts. 

“Finally, I worked very hard to ensure tribal nations are equipped to face and fight the unknown challenges ahead with this coronavirus like other state and local authorities. Oklahoma is home to 39 sovereign tribes, and each one plays an invaluable role in the lives and health of their members and surrounding communities. I am proud that this relief package dedicates generous resources specifically for tribal nations to respond.”

Topline Provisions

  • Provides direct financial relief through one-time tax rebate checks
    • Check amount is $1,200 for every American with income at or below $75,000 and $2,400 per married couple along with $500 per child. Assistance is reduced for those earning between $75,000-$99,000 and ends at $99,000
  • $260 billion to expand unemployment benefits for workers affected by COVID-19
  • $340 billion for emergency supplemental funding for public health response
    • $117 billion for hospitals and veterans’ health care
    • $45 billion for FEMA’s disaster relief fund
    • $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile to procure personal protective equipment, ventilators and other medical supplies for federal and state efforts
    • $4.3 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • $11 billion for vaccines, therapeutics and other medical needs
    • $150 billion for state and local governments, with no states getting less than $1.5 billion. States will able to counter lost tax revenue and growing unemployment claims.
  • Provides support for small businesses
    • $350 billion to establish Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and help keep workers on the payroll
    • $10 billion for Small Business Administration (SBA) emergency grants up to $10,000 to help small businesses cover operating costs
    • $17 billion for SBA to cover six months of payments for small businesses with existing loans
  • For the credit reporting industry
    • Consumers will be shielded from a negative credit report if they have an agreement with a lender to delay payments or make partial payments.
  • On student loans 
    • Creates a new tax benefit for student loan borrowers whose employers help them pay off their debt. Companies can pay up to $5,250 of an employee’s student loan payments each year on a tax-free basis.
  • Provides $9.5 billion in emergency aid for the agriculture industry and replenishes $14 billion in spending authority to the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corporation.
  • Allocates $25 billion in loans and loan guarantees for the airlines.
    • This will also benefit eligible businesses "approved to perform inspection, repair, replace, or overhaul services, and ticket agents.” Note that “ticket agents” refers to travel agents who book flights.
  • Provides for rapid coverage of preventive services and vaccines for COVID-19
    • Provides free coverage without cost-sharing of a vaccine within 15 days for COVID-19 that has in effect a rating of “A” or “B” in the current recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force or a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)

Provisions Related to Indian Country

During negotiations on the CARES Act, Cole was instrumental in ensuring the inclusion of the following provisions in recognition of Indian Country’s important role as a partner in combating COVID-19:

Healthcare

  • $1.032 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS) Services Account
    • Includes up to $65 million for electronic health record stabilization and support
    • Includes up to $125 million for IHS facilities
    • At least $450 million shall be distributed to Direct Service Tribes and Self-Governance Tribes

Public Health

  • $1.5 billion for CDC grants and cooperative agreements of which Indian Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Urban Indian Health Organizations are eligible to apply
  • Minimum of $125 million in set-aside funding for tribes and tribal organizations under CDC
    • Funding is for surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, mitigation, communications and other preparedness and response activities
  • Minimum of $15 million in set-aside funding for tribes and tribal organizations under Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
    • Funding is for mental and behavioral health services in response to COVID-19
  • Minimum of $15 million from the Public Health Service and Social Services Emergency Fund
  • Minimum of $15 million telehealth and rural health activities set-aside funding for tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations or health service providers under Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
    • Funding is for health surveillance and other needs under the HRSA Rural Health program
  • Extension of the Special Diabetes Program for Indians through November 30, 2020
  • Extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program through November 30, 2020

Housing

  • $453 million for Indian Affairs Operation of Indian Programs until September 30, 2021
  • $300 million under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA)
    • $200 million for Native American Housing Block Grants
    • $100 million for Indian Community Development Block Grant
    • $5 million for Office of Public and Indian Housing
  • $4.5 million for tribal domestic violence shelters through the Family Violence and Prevention Services Act (10 percent tribal set-aside from $45 million)
  • $900 million for Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP), which includes Tribal LIHEAP

Nutrition:

  • $100 million for the Food Distribution Program for Indians Reservations
    • $50 million for facility improvements and equipment upgrades
    • $50 million for additional food purchases
  • $20 million for Older Americans Act, Tribal Nutrition Program.
    • Provides funds for the delivery of nutrition services to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and native Hawaiian elders
  • $8.8 billion for Child Nutrition Programs

Education:

  • 69 million for operation of Indian Education Programs until September 30, 2021
    • Minimum $20 million for Tribal Colleges and Universities
    • $3 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grant
  • Education Stabilization Fund:
    • $153,750,000 set aside from the Education Stabilization Fund for programs operated or funded by the Bureau of Indian Education
    • $1.046 billion for Parts A and B of title III, Parts A and B of title V, and subpart (A)(4) of title VII of the Higher Education Act, which serves Minority Serving Institutions, including but is not limited to, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions, and Native American Serving Non-tribal Institutions
  • Access to Institute of Museum and Library Services grants
    • $50 million to expand digital network access, purchase internet accessible devices, and provide technical support services
    • Any matching funds requirements for tribal nations are waived for grants provided with funds made available under Institute of Museum and Library Service grants

Economic Relief Authorizations:

  • Coronvirus Relief Fund
    • $8 billion authorized for tribal governments
  • Coronavirus Economic Stabilization Act of 2020
    • Provides $454 billion for loans, loan guarantees and investments in support of the Federal Reserve’s lending facilities to eligible businesses, states (tribes are included) and municipalities
  • Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed Act
    • Makes tribes eligible for the Small Business Act Section 7(a) Paycheck Protection Program, which provides 100% federal loan guarantees up to $10 million to cover costs like employee salaries, paid sick leave/medical leave, mortgages/rents and employee health insurance premiums.
  • Emergency Unemployment Relief for Governmental Entities and Nonprofit Organizations
    • During the period of the national emergency, the federal government would pay a 50 percent reimbursement for the cost of unemployment compensation paid by tribes that are reimbursement-option employers 
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) grants
    • Tribal small businesses eligible
  • Health Professions Workforce Program
    • Qualified tribes or tribal organizations may be prioritized for awards
  • Nursing Workforce Development Amendments
    • Includes IHS Community Health Aides
  • National Emergency Educational Waivers
    • Includes tribes
  • Priority for Geriatrics Education and Training Grants for applicants with programs or activities that are expected to serve older adults in Indian Tribes or Tribal Organizations

Full text of the legislation is available here.

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