By EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON
U.S. House of Representatives
Every day, we see the need for further action to combat the coronavirus crisis. The statistics are devastating – more than one million confirmed cases, over 57,000 deaths and more than 26 million initial unemployment claims in the past five weeks alone. There has been no human recollection of a similar breadth of impact that this pandemic has had on our society, and our federal response must measure up to the task.
I, along with my colleagues in the House of Representatives, passed an interim emergency funding package that provides $483.4 billion for critical emergency resources that are desperately needed to sustain the lives and livelihoods of our families and communities. We demanded and succeeded in expanding this emergency package to include aid to hospitals and health workers. This funding package also provided an injection of $310 billion in additional funding to the Paycheck Protection Program, with some oversight measures to help level the playing field for all businesses, not just the ones that are well connected.
We secured $75 billion to hospitals and health care workers to provide resources to the medical frontlines that included critically needed personal protective equipment. We owe them our full systematic and financial support in their mission to fight the coronavirus. We also secured $25 billion for testing, which is the key to reopening the economy and resuming our lives.
When Congress originally passed the CARES Act in late March, it included $350 billion in funding for small businesses to help them pay and retain their employees while also covering costs related to rent, mortgages and utilities. The Paycheck Protection Program was meant to benefit all small businesses that haven’t established banking relationships with the largest banks. Unfortunately, the big banks took it upon themselves to provide concierge service to their most loyal customers, while ignoring or providing second-class service to businesses in our communities of color. This is not how the program was intended to operate.
My colleagues and I fought hard to ensure that $60 billion in funding for the Paycheck Protection Program was set aside for community-based lenders, small and medium-sized banks and credit unions. Because these smaller lenders have a better understanding of and connection to their communities, businesses will have a fairer shot of getting funding through this vital program.
Never has our society faced a challenge such as this. These are truly unprecedented times, and it merits our relentless efforts to address, lessen and prevent the damages of the coronavirus.
I will continue my fight for federal resources to assist all members of our communities during this pandemic.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas in the United States House of Representatives. She also chairs the House committee on Science, Space and Technology.