05/31/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/31/2023 13:11
WASHINGTON, DC - Today marks the official end of the COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency declarations. Going forward, the federal coronavirus response is restructured to treat the virus as an endemic threat to public health -- not a pandemic -- that can be treated like other respiratory illnesses and managed through federal agencies' normal authorities.
"COVID exposed a lot of hard truths and vulnerabilities. The pandemic is over, but we're still learning from it. We've got to correctly diagnose the challenges we face and take the right steps to strengthen our neglected infrastructure and services, whether it's health care or supply chains," said Reed.
On January 22, 2020, then-President Donald Trump declared: "We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China. It's going to be just fine." He was wrong.
COVID was first declared a public health emergency on January 31, 2020, by then-President Donald Trump's Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Trump later declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency in March of 2020.
Since that time, more than 1.13 million people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including nearly 4,000 Rhode Islanders. In January 2021, COVID-19 took the lives of more than 23,000 Americans in a single week.
While the virus is now less of a threat to the United States, it remains a danger in other areas of the world and will continue to circulate.
As COVID-19 began to spread in the U.S. in 2020, and workers lost their jobs - with 33 million filing for jobless benefits by early May -- and businesses shuttered during strict but voluntary stay-at-home orders endorsed and extended by President Trump, federal emergency COVID-relief aid, such as employment assistance, was vital to millions of vulnerable families.
To save lives, livelihoods, and communities, Congress passed a series of COVID relief measures and approved federal aid, loans, tax breaks, and payment deferrals during the global pandemic to protect public health and prevent economic collapse, including approximately $17.8 billion in outlays for Rhode Island.
During the Trump and Biden Administrations, Congress passed several different pandemic spending packages to combat COVID and provide economic relief, including a broad range of measures from vaccines and testing to funds for stimulus checks and unemployment benefits, assistance to small businesses, nutrition assistance, child care block grants, housing relief, education aid, and funds for state and local governments to target to areas of need. This federal funding kept businesses afloat, put critically needed money in people's bank accounts, prevented millions from falling into poverty or losing their homes, kept public transportation options running, and improved the state's infrastructure and capacity to respond to the public health emergency.
In early 2020, Senator Reed was part of the bipartisan working group that drafted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and successfully led efforts to create the Coronavirus Relief Fund to help states combat COVID-19. Through the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan, Reed was able to deliver a total of $500 billion in federal aid for state and local governments through two funding vehicles -- the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) and the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) -- including $2.92 billion for Rhode Island.
"When the pandemic hit, Rhode Islanders worked together to keep each other safe and I did everything I could at the federal level to ensure Rhode Island had the resources to effectively respond to this crisis, recover from it, and cover the emergency costs," said Senator Reed. "At a time of great turmoil and uncertainty, this federal funding played a key role in terms of saving lives, boosting our economy, and building a brighter, healthier future. It helped prevent what could have been another Great Depression."
Federal COVID Funds for Rhode Island by Category:
Small Business: $4.21 billion
Treasury State/Local/Economic assistance: $3.03 billion
Unemployment: $3 billion
IRS: $2.93 billion
Healthcare/Public Health: $1.275 billion
Education: $1.05 billion
DHS Emergency: $990,118,000
Food Assistance: $312,028,000
Children and Families: $188,109,000
TOTAL: $17.8 billion
During the pandemic, Senator Reed led the successful effort to save Rhode Island hundreds of millions of dollars by ensuring the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), not Rhode Island, picked up 100 percent of the tab for emergency public health costs like test kits, testing sites, and vaccine distribution. Under the Trump Administration, FEMA only agreed to reimburse up to 75 percent of approved emergency costs for pandemic response public services.
After President Biden was elected, Senator Reed helped successfully advocate for the federal government to pick up the full tab. President Biden directed FEMA to raise its reimbursement rate for states, territories, and localities for emergency COVID-19 costs from 75 percent to 100 percent to help better manage the pandemic response and defray the mounting bills for states.
"The Biden Administration rightly answered the call to waive FEMA's cost share requirement and ensure Rhode Island had needed resources for testing and vaccine distribution. That proved to be a major boost to the health and safety of our residents and prevented Rhode Island and other states from being forced to enact draconian tax increases," said Reed.
"This was emergency spending and these were significant investments by the federal government that were made at a crucial time. At the height of the crisis, they helped our nation manage the pandemic and mitigate the economic burden on families and businesses and saved the U.S. economy when supply chains broke down and people couldn't get a paycheck," concluded Reed.
Timeline of Major COVID-19 relief legislation:
March 6, 2020 - Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act: $8.3 billion
March 18, 2020 - Families First Coronavirus Response Act: $192 billion
March 27, 2020 - The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act: $2 trillion
April 24, 2020 - Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act: $483 billion
December 27, 2020 - Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021: $868 billion
March 11, 2021 - American Rescue Plan Act: $1.9 trillion