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After 72 hours of negotiating improvements, Tester votes to deliver critical relief for Montana workers, families, businesses, hospitals

“This bill is far from perfect…but will help provide the urgent relief Montanans need now,” Jon Tester.

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News from Senator Jon Tester 

MONTANA – After 72 hours negotiating substantial, bipartisan improvements to COVID-19 stimulus legislation that had previously fallen far short, U.S. Senator Jon Tester voted (March 25) to deliver critical, urgent relief to Montana workers, families, small businesses, hospitals and others hardest hit by the outbreak.

On Sunday, Tester outlined his opposition to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's original spending package, which did not protect workers or businesses while bailing out large corporations, and got to work over the next 72 hours to improve the bill — successfully adding strong accountability provisions on loans to corporations, better protections for workers and businesses and an additional $55 billion in funding for hospitals, healthcare workers and community health centers, which will have a tangible impact on Montana’s efforts to combat this crisis.

“This bill is far from perfect, but after working to fix some of its most serious shortcomings and make improvements, I believe it will now help provide the critical, urgent relief that Montanans need,” Tester said. “After two failed attempts at delivering for Montana, I’m glad my Republican colleagues listened to our concerns and agreed to support our small businesses, employees, hospitals and communities that have been hit hardest.”

Tester continued: “I’m troubled that the administration and some of my colleagues forced us to accept their $500 billion slush fund in order to get needed relief for hardworking Montanans. I will be aggressive in making sure there is accountability and transparency in how this money is spent moving forward to combat waste, fraud and abuse.”

Tester has been working tirelessly to ensure that Montana is prepared to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, speaking around the clock with Montana workers, business leaders, local government officials, Tribal members, and educators across the state to hear directly about the public health and economic effects of the outbreak, and what policy solutions would provide the most relief.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act provides investments Tester pushed for, including:

For small businesses

-$10 billion for SBA emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for small business operating costs,

-$17 billion for SBA to cover six months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans,

-a Small Business Paycheck Protection Program to provide loans for small businesses, nonprofits, vet and self-employed individuals to cover eight weeks of payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utility costs that will be up to 100 percent forgivable for Main Street businesses that fully maintain their workforce.

For workers and families

-$1,200 one-time payment for Americans making less than $75,000, with an additional $500 per child,

-unemployment insurance maximum benefits are increased by $600 per week to ensure laid-off workers, on average, will receive their full pay for four months, and this applies to all workers whether they work for small, medium or large businesses, along with self-employed and gig workers,

-income-tax exclusion for individuals who are receiving student loan repayment assistance from their employer

For hospitals, healthcare workers, emergency medical services and equipment

-$150 billion for direct aid to our healthcare system, including $100 billion for hospitals,

-$1.3 billion in funding for community health centers to continue operations through November 30, 2020, beyond the current funding cliff of May 22, 2020,

-$16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile with pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment for frontline health workers and other medical supplies,

-$11 billion in new funds to support development of a vaccine and other therapeutics for COVID-19, including $156 million for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease to accelerate research and development of treatment and vaccines,

-$850 million in Byrne JAG funding to help state and local law enforcement purchase PPE and pay for officer overtime,

-$100 million for Assistance to Firefighter grants to help ensure local firefighters and EMTs have equipment

-$45 million for Family Violence Prevention Services Grants to assist victims of domestic violence,

-$200 million for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to assist nursing homes with infection control

-$425 million for mental health funding.

For state, local and tribal governments

-$150 billion for a state, tribal and local Coronavirus Relief fund with an $8 billion tribal set aside,

-$30.75 billion in funding for an Education Stabilization Fund,

-$13.5 billion for K-12 schools to respond to the urgent needs of their students in the midst of school closures,

-$14.25 billion for colleges, universities and institutions of higher education to directly support students and institutions,

-$400 million to help states prepare to for the 2020 elections while keeping voters and poll workers safe.

For veterans

-$19.6 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs, including; $14 billion for essential medical and protective equipment including the purchase of testing kits, personal protective equipment and medical supplies,

-$2.15 billion to bolster telehealth capabilities,

-$13 million to safeguard VA benefits.

For Tribes

-more than $10 billion for Indian Country: $8 billion in emergency funds to help tribes recover from the effects of COVID-19, $1 billion to the Indian Health Service to support tribal healthcare system response efforts, $453 million for operation of essential tribal government services funded through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, $100 million in additional funding for the Food Distribution Program on reservations,

-$69 million to help tribal schools, colleges and universities through the Bureau of Indian Education,

-$300 million in additional funding for the Indian Tribal Block Grant program.

For rural Montana

-$9.5 billion in assistance for agricultural producers, including fresh-produce farmers and livestock producers,

-$42 billion in investments in both airports and their workers, as well as increased funding for Essential Air Service. It also provides loans to airlines as well as direct payroll payments for airline employees and new authority for the Department of Transportation to keep passenger air service flying to rural America,

-$1 billion to Amtrak, which will help maintain long-distance routes, and $25 billion to transit systems so that they can remain operational and prepared for the pandemic.

For accountability

-eliminates “secret bailout” provision that would have allowed bailouts to corporations to be concealed for six months under the McConnell plan,

-creates a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery at the Department of Treasury to prevent and identify any incidents of waste, fraud and abuse,

-establishes a Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to oversee loans to businesses to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent efficiently and effectively,

-prohibit businesses controlled by the President, Vice President, Members of Congress and heads of Executive Departments from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs,

-ban stock buybacks for the term of the government assistance plus one year on any company receiving a government loan from the bill.

And last week, Tester urged Senate Leadership to ensure that Washington does not leave Montana behind in its response to the outbreak by pressing for this legislative package to include key priorities for Montana workers, schools, small businesses, tribes and local governments—feedback that he has heard directly from folks on the ground. Visit tester.senate.gov/coronavirusresources for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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