Q&A WITH MURKOWSKI: Bipartisan, Bicameral Covid-19 Emergency Relief Package
Murkowski Highlights Alaska Highlights
This week, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Warner (D-VA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Angus King (I-ME), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representatives Gottheimer (D-NJ-5) and Tom Reed (R-NY-23) to unveil the legislative text for the two bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 emergency relief bills.
Today, Senator Murkowski took part in a Q&A to help further explain details of the legislation.
QUESTION 1: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE NOTABLE WINS FOR ALASKA IN THE TWO-BILL PROPOSAL?
QUESTION 2: WHAT MAKES THIS COVID-19 EMERGENCY RELIEF PROPOSAL UNIQUE?
“I think what is important to recognize is what went into this. This bipartisan, bicameral group was initially four Republicans and four Democrats. We actually met at my house for a dinner. We came together to talk about what we might be able to do—how we could respond to the urgency of the issue. We broadened that group to include members of the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House,” said Senator Murkowski. “This is a reflection of the good work that can come when you’ve got a commitment to work together to really reach compromise when Americans are in need. We know this is not the end-all and be-all; we were trying to focus on targeted emergency relief and that’s what you see reflected in this proposal. It’s something the American people have asked for, something Alaskans need, and I am proud to have put my muscle behind it.”
QUESTION 3: WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HAVE FOR ALASKANS?
“I think people need to know that when things are really hard, members can come together—across parties, across the halls of Congress—and say ‘what is it that we can do to respond’,” said Senator Murkowski. “As I think about the policy contours that we have laid down that offer hope to Alaskans, I hope that people not only look at this process but also at those who step forward to say ‘we can put our parties aside, and we will focus on the need and we are going to deliver a product’, and hopefully that hope, cooperation, and willingness to work together will carry over into the new year. I’m proud of the process we have engaged in. I don’t know how it will move forward as the Leadership takes up its negotiations but I think we have given them an extraordinary work product with which to base.”
The bipartisan COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020 would provide as much as $748 billion in relief to American students, families, businesses, workers, and health care providers during this crisis. The State and Local Support and Small Business Protection Act of 2020 would provide $160 billion in funding for state and local governments and tribes, as well as liability protections.
ALASKA BILL HIGHLIGHTS:
- Extension of time to spend CARES funding: Extends the deadline for spending CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund aid on COVID-related expenses through December 31, 2021
- Unemployment Insurance: Extends all pandemic unemployment insurance programs by 16 weeks, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), from their expiration at the end of December. The proposal also expands federal supplemental unemployment insurance benefits by $300 per week for 16 weeks, from the end of December into April 2021.
- Small Businesses: Includes additional aid for small businesses, including a second round of loans through the Paycheck Protection Program — a forgivable, non-taxable, simplified loan forgiveness program established by the CARES Act this spring.
- Provisions from the Community Services Block Grant Act: Language to address This would ensure Alaska would receive their remaining $3.625 million in CSBG CARES Act funds from HHS.
- Support for Transportation Systems: Includes $8 billion to support payroll for parts of the transportation industry that didn’t get relief in the CARES Act, including Alaska’s ferries and the motor coach industry.
- Airport grant funding: Includes $4 billion to help large and small airports, including those in Alaska, with combatting coronavirus debt service payments, and rent relief for airport concessions.
- Essential Air Service funding: Includes $23 billion in support of the Essential Air Service Program, which is vital to many of Alaska’s rural communities.
- Airline Payroll Support Program: Includes $17 billion for the airline payroll support program (PSP) and extends it through March 31, 2020.
- State, Local, and Tribal Governments: Includes $160 billion in total funding for state, local, and tribal governments including:
- $152 billion for state and local governments with $500 million minimum to states.
- $8 billion set aside for tribal entities including tribal governments, tribal organizations, and Alaska Native Corporations
- COVID-19 Testing, Tracing, and Isolation: Includes provisions from Senator Murkowski’s bill the TRACE Act, introduced with Senator King (I-ME), which would help enhance coronavirus testing, contact tracing, and supported isolation efforts.
- Fisheries: Includes $500 million for fishery assistance with a set aside of $50 million for tribes.
- Provider Relief Fund: Provides $35 billion for the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) including $7 billion for rural providers and $1 billion for tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations, and health service providers to tribes.
- Vaccine Distribution: Includes $6 billion to help support COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts.
- Rural Water Infrastructure: Includes $500 million to build out water infrastructure in rural Alaska villages, the territories, and on Indian reservations
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) Benefits: Temporarily increases the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to address the higher cost of food.
- Tribal Funding for Behavioral Health: Includes $185 million set-aside for tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations for substance use disorder and behavioral health efforts.
- Opioid and other drug-related overdose deaths: Includes provisions from Senator Murkowski’s Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act to help address the increase in opioid and other drug-related overdose deaths during COVID-19.
- Flexibility for E-rate: Includes flexibility for the E-rate program, which makes telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries. This flexibility would allow schools in remote villages to better deliver services to the homes of students.
- Relief for Students: Includes an extension of suspensions on student loan repayment until April 1, 2021.
- Broadband: Includes $100 million for the state to fund new broadband infrastructure as well as at least $50,000 to each Tribe in Alaska to support broadband