People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is submitted by Congressman Alan Lowenthal, who represents the cities of Long Beach, Lakewood, Signal Hill, Avalon, Los Alamitos, Rossmoor, Cypress, Westminster, Garden Grove, Buena Park, Anaheim, Midway City and Stanton in California’s 47th Congressional District, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.
As the coronavirus crisis threatens the lives and livelihoods of Californians, we must work every day to support the health care workers who are saving lives and the families, workers, and small businesses who make our economy work.
Recently, Congress passed our third bipartisan response to this crisis—$2.2 trillion in emergency funding for hospitals, health care systems, workers, small businesses, students and state and local leaders who are on the front lines. It builds on two bipartisan bills already signed into law to boost prevention, preparedness and assistance to families.
Under the latest bill, most Californians will get direct cash payments in the next few weeks. All individuals earning less than $75,000 and households earning less than $150,000 will receive $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child. Payments will decrease after that until they phase out entirely for higher income earners.
With this bill, we dramatically increased unemployment benefits so that middle-income workers affected by this crisis will get four months of full pay, and made sure self-employed workers, independent contractors, and gig economy workers are covered. Californians are now eligible for up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits.
We know that social distancing has serious economic costs, and we don’t take these measures lightly. We need to recognize that everyone is making sacrifices to protect one another. The federal government needs to do everything in its power to help families get by while we fight this disease.
The bill included $200 billion for hospitals, health care workers, and research. This critical funding will keep health care facilities working safely, to the fullest extent possible. It will also help provide critical supplies, including ventilators, N95 masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment. Our health system is stretched to the brink, and I know this is just a down payment on the resources it will need to combat this pandemic. We secured $15.3 billion for California state and local governments that are on the front lines, $3.75 billion for California transit systems that have been hit with added cleaning costs and a steep drop in ridership, and $237 million for California to address homelessness. Ensuring that people experiencing homelessness are sheltered in safe and clean facilities will be critical to save lives and protect public health.
Nationwide, we secured $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses, so that they can continue to pay as many employees as possible, $17 billion for debt relief for current and new Small Business Administration borrowers and $10 billion in immediate disaster grants. My office is here to help businesses in the 47th District secure that relief.
For California students, we secured billions in emergency education funding and eliminated income tax on student loan repayment assistance by an employer.
To ensure accountability and oversight, we prevented secret bailouts and added special oversight requirements, including a ban on stock buybacks for any company receiving a government loan for the term of the loan plus one year. In addition, House Democrats insisted on robust worker protections attached to all federal loans for businesses.
These are just some of the assistance and relief measures you may be eligible for under this emergency package. If you need help accessing or applying for any of these, my office is here to help. Please reach out to us at lowenthal.house.gov. I promise we will do everything we can to assist.
While this relief package will provide critical emergency assistance our community needs, I know we still have much more work to do, and I will be working for you every day as Congress crafts the next relief and assistance package.
In these difficult times, I want to personally thank all health care workers and first responders who are risking their lives every day to care for others throughout our state. I want to thank the grocery store clerks, delivery workers, sanitation workers, postal workers and so many others who are sacrificing to make everyday life possible. Thank you to parents who are now juggling telework with supervising remote learning for their children. Thank you to small business owners who are making sacrifices for their workers, and for our communities. Thank you all for following social distancing guidelines and showing kindness to your neighbors.
You are the heroes in this story. And, it is because of you that I know we will get through this crisis together.