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Pallone Applauds Passage of Omnibus and Coronavirus Relief Bill

December 21, 2020
Press Release
Bill Provides Critical Funding for COVID-19 Vaccines and Testing, Small Businesses, New Jersey’s Fishing Community, and Live Music Venues

Washington, DC – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) today issued the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Omnibus and Coronavirus Relief Bill:

“This legislation is an all-encompassing package that delivers the resources we need to end the coronavirus pandemic, get help to hardworking Americans, and secure progress in our fight against climate change. It provides funding for vaccines, COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, and direct support to American families.

“I’m pleased that this bill will help my home state of New Jersey. This bill gives New Jersey residents and communities who still face extraordinary financial strain as a result of Superstorm Sandy’s devastation an additional year to pay back disaster relief funds. We also continue to help the fishing industry up and down the Jersey Shore with an additional $300 million in federal aid for fishing communities. Entertainment venues will finally receive the funding they need to survive, helping to preserve venues like the Stone Pony and dozens of music venues in Central Jersey and other historic places that mean so much to our communities.

“This bill sets standards that will help ensure we can maintain a safe, thriving horseracing industry. Horseracing at Monmouth Park in my district and across the country is more than just sport – it is a tradition that we look forward to year after year. This bill provides the guidelines necessary to protect Thoroughbred racehorses and establish trust in the authenticity of Thoroughbred races.

“As Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I authored key provisions in the bill to accelerate our response to the ongoing public health crisis that is devastating our country. Most importantly, this bill provides significant funding to states to limit COVID-19 transmission, including funding for the equitable distribution of vaccines and significant resources to continue the development and supply of additional vaccines. It also provides billions of dollars for expanded testing and contact tracing. It also gives up to $50 dollars per month to struggling families to help pay their internet bills. We cannot lose an entire generation of students to the digital divide.

“This bill also protects Americans from surprise medical bills and represents the most significant expansion of patient protections since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. It’s long past time for Congress to take decisive action to protect consumers from the unreasonable and unacceptable practice of surprise billing. These bills cause tremendous financial devastation and a significant emotional toll for the families who receive them. I’m glad we were able to get the job done.

“I also fought to include language that will address the climate crisis by reducing the usage of hydrofluorocarbons and transitioning our economy to a clean, low-carbon future. I also authored key provisions that will help protect consumers from COVID-19 scams. Scammers are exploiting Americans who are struggling financially and peddling bogus treatments and sham testing kits from unscrupulous sellers. This bill will give the federal government more power to go after bad actors who seek to profit off this difficult time.

“This bill is an important first step in our fight to address our country’s most challenging problems head on. In the coming months, we will work with the incoming Biden Administration to find ways to build on this progress.”

The legislation delivers the resources we need to end the coronavirus pandemic, protect lives and livelihoods, and address climate change, including:

Support for COVID-19 vaccines, testing, tracing and treatment through $69 billion in critically needed funding for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, vaccines, mental health, and support for health care providers. This funding includes $22 billion for testing, contact tracing, surveillance and mitigation, $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics, including the manufacture, production, and purchase of vaccines, therapeutics and ancillary supplies, and nearly $9 billion in additional funding to support distribution of lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines that will help bring an end to the pandemic.

Continued support for small business with $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans for businesses and expanded PPP eligibility for nonprofits.

Help for unemployed Americans by averting the sudden expiration of Unemployment Insurance benefits for millions and adding a $300 per week UI enhancement for Americans out of work.

Combating climate change by directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons by 85 percent over 15 years.  Enacting this provision will position the United States to lead the world in avoiding up to 0.5 degree Celsius of warming.

Transitioning to a clean, low-carbon future by investing in clean energy, distributing energy resources, energy storage systems, and microgrids – all of which are crucial to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Making pipelines more secure by repairing methane leaks and requiring natural gas pipeline operators to undertake advanced leak detection and repair programs to help to curtail greenhouse gases and combating the climate crisis.

The omnibus and COVID-19 relief package will also go a long way to help communities in New Jersey. The bill:

Provides financial relief to families currently required to pay back disaster relief funds they received after Superstorm Sandy with a 1 year extension. Many homeowners who received relief funds have been required to repay some or all the funds, creating a financial burden during a time of economic crisis.

Helps the fishing industry with an additional $300 million in additional aid for the fishing community.

Ensures clean drinking water through $53 million in funding for research and cleanup assistance for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) needed to establish drinking water and cleanup standards.

Delivers aid to the live entertainment and music venue industry through $15 billion for grants to eligible live venue operators, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions.

Protects racehorses and jockeys by establishing minimum standards for an anti-doping and medication control program, racing surfaces, pre-race inspections, equine medical directors, workout requirements and safety stewards.

Allocates funding for transportation that includes $1 billion for Amtrak nationally and $2 billion in assistance for motorcoach and bus operators, school bus companies, passenger vessel operators, passenger ferries and other U.S. transportation service providers.

In addition, the bill prioritizes help for those who need it most. Among its many provisions, it:

Provides additional direct payments cushioning the economic blow of the coronavirus crisis with a second round of economic impact payments of $600 for most taxpayers. 

Protects patients from surprise medical bills including from air ambulance providers, by ensuring they are only responsible for their in-network cost-sharing amounts, including deductibles, in both emergency situations and certain non-emergency situations where patients do not have the ability to choose an in-network provider.

Extends expiring public health programs for three years including Community Health Centers, the National Health Service Corps, Teaching Health Centers, and Special Diabetes Programs.

Bridges the digital divide through $7 billion to assist struggling families better afford their internet service. Eligible households may receive a discount of up to $50 off the cost of internet service and a subsidy for low-cost devices such as computers and tablets.

Strengthens food security addressing rising hunger with $13 billion in nutrition assistance that helps families put food on the table and a 15 percent increase to the maximum SNAP benefit for six months. It also allocates $400 million to the Emergency Food Assistance Program.

Keeps families in their homes through $25 billion in critically needed rental assistance for families struggling to stay in their homes and an extension of the eviction moratorium.

Supports better schools through $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to addressing learning loss among students and for school facilities repairs and improvements, including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems projects to improve indoor air quality in school facilities and $22.7 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.