Rush Statement on Passage of Federal Omnibus Spending Bill and COVID Relief Legislation

Dec 21, 2020
Press Release
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) released the following statement subsequent to his vote in support of a legislative package that funds the Federal Government for Fiscal Year 2021 and provides critical  additional funding for the  response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:
 
“The passage of today’s government funding package demonstrates that House Democrats remain committed to delivering much-needed relief to the American people in the wake of the devastation wrought by COVID-19,” said  Rush.
 
Health Care Provisions Included in the COVID-19 Relief Funding Package
 
“I am pleased that the COVID-relief package includes critical provisions to ensure access to physicians, testing, and vaccines, with a particular focus on communities of color.  While we need even more, particularly in regard to community-based testing and contact tracing as well as rental assistance, today’s legislation will save lives and take critical steps to help the individuals and businesses in my district weather this pandemic.”
 
Specifically, the package:
  • Significantly reduces looming cuts to healthcare specialists.  Rep. Rush has been an outspoken leader on ensuring that Medicare’s scheduled fee increase for the office-based evaluation and management (E/M) code set to take effect in 2021 does not adversely affect other healthcare providers.  He led multiple letters to House leadership and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services emphasizing the importance of preventing these cuts in order to protect patients’ access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
     
  • Includes long-term funding for critical public health programs, including Community Health Centers, Teaching Health Centers, the National Health Service Corps, and the Special Diabetes Program.
     
  • Eliminates Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payment cuts for safety net hospitals for Fiscal Year 2021 and postpones any additional cuts until Fiscal Year 2024.   Rep. Rush has cosponsored legislation, voted on amendments, and sent letters to House leadership to prevent these ill-advised cuts to safety net hospitals.  Most recently, he led a letter with members of the Illinois delegation supporting a multi-year delay of Medicaid DSH payment cuts.
     
  • Provides billions in funding for testing and contact tracing efforts, as well as vaccine purchasing, distribution, and outreach efforts.  This includes funding specifically designated for communities of color and other groups who have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus.  Specifically, the legislation includes $22.4 billion for testing, contact tracing, and surveillance, $19 billion for the manufacturing and purchasing of vaccines, therapeutics, and ancillary supplies, and $8.75 billion for distribution, promotion, monitoring, and tracking of the administration of the vaccine, including funding specifically designated for high-risk and underserved  populations, such as communities of color.
     
  • Permanently ends surprise medical bills, by ensuring patients are only responsible for their in-network cost-sharing amounts when they can’t choose an in-network provider.  Furthermore, the solution preserves access to care by implementing an arbitration system, which will ensure doctors and hospitals will be fairly reimbursed and be able to continue to operate.   Rep. Rush tirelessly advocated for this solution, as it is in the best interest of both patients and doctors in Illinois.
     
  • Reauthorizes the School Based Health Center Program.   Rep. Rush has cosponsored legislation and included this program as one of his top priorities.  He understands the importance of ensuring the health infrastructure is there to provide care to students, since consistent access to medical care can reduce the racial health gap that has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
     
  • Includes a long-overdue fix to ensure access to colorectal cancer screenings for Medicare patients.   Rep. Rush joined his colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus to ask House and Senate leadership for the inclusion of this language in this package.
     
  • Permanently covers mental health telehealth services under Medicare.   Rep. Rush has cosponsored numerous bills to ensure access of telehealth services both for the length of this pandemic and as a permanent provision to increase access to care for seniors in their homes.
     
  • Decreases costs for those on Medicaid to participate in clinical trials by requiring state Medicaid programs to pay for the cost of services provided as part of participating in a clinical trial.  Currently, only a fraction of patients who currently participate in clinical trials come from underserved or minority populations with socioeconomic disadvantages.  This lack of access is a double-edged sword: African-Americans are simultaneously unable to receive access to advanced clinical trials for medicine that could save their lives and once the drugs are approved, researchers and physicians have no way of knowing how they will interact with African-American bodies.   Rep. Rush is a proud cosponsor of legislation, which this provision is based on, to remove this barrier.
     
  • Creates a grant program to expand the use of technology-enabled collaborative learning and capacity-building models to increase access to specialized health care services in medically underserved areas and for medically underserved populations.   Rep. Rush is a proud cosponsor of the legislation that this provision is based on.
     
  • Allocates $10 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants to provide immediate assistance to childcare providers.

Delivers Vital Economic Relief to Americans Effected by the COVID-19 Pandemic

“The measure passed by the House today takes the critical step of restoring the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation supplement at $300 per week, restoring vital relief to those who have been put out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Furthermore, this legislation provides a federal subsidy for half of a state’s costs for unemployment benefits granted to employees of state and local governments and non-profits, who may have been devastated by spending cuts,” said  Rep. Rush
 
“At a time when economic strain has caused millions of Americans to struggle with hunger, this legislation increases the monthly SNAP benefit level by 15%.  This is a crucial increase for families who have may have found themselves wondering where their next meal was going to come from.  With a recent survey from the United States Census Bureau finding that over 1 in 10 Americans can sometimes find themselves without enough to eat on a weekly basis, I am glad Congress recognized the moral imperative for this increase.”
 
Additionally today’s legislation provided a refundable tax credit in the amount of $600 per eligible family member, phased out after an individual or household reaches a specified income level, and a provision allowing employers to postpone paying their portion of 2020 Social Security taxes until January, 1, 2022.
 
Several measures critical to the survival of small businesses were also included in the package passed by the House today:
  • Critical funding and policy changes to help small businesses — including minority-owned business — and nonprofits weather this pandemic.  The legislation includes over $284 billion for first and second forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, expands PPP eligibility for nonprofits, modifies requirements to help the smallest businesses, struggling non-profits, and independent restaurants, and includes $15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions.  The agreement also includes $20 billion for targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), which are critical to many smaller businesses on Main Street.
     
  • Establishes a $9 billion Emergency Capital Investment Program to provide low-cost, long-term capital investments to minority depository institutions (MDIs) and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to support lending in low-income and underserved communities, including persistent poverty counties, that have been disproportionately impacted by the economic effects of the COVID–19 pandemic, as well as  $3 billion for grants and other financial assistance to CDFIs, as they serve consumers, small businesses, and nonprofits in their communities.
Sadly, COVID-19 and the resulting economic downturn has thrown many Americans into housing insecurity.  Today’s package includes several measures to aide those struggling to pay their rent or suffering from homelessness:
  • Secured $25 billion in federal rental assistance and extends the federal eviction ban through January 31, 2020.  The economic devastation wrought by COVID-19 has caused many to lose their jobs and incomes, and  Rep. Rush is pleased that this package will allow Americans to remain in their homes and help assist them in regaining their economic security.
     
  • Expands access to housing through $43.4 million in targeted vouchers to reduce homelessness among families with children, individuals, veterans, and survivors of domestic violence.
     
  • $3.8 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), an increase of $10 million.
Today’s package also assists the transportation sector, among the hardest hit, by enacting the following measures:
  • Provides emergency relief to transit services, including airlines, airports, mass transit, and state highways.  Specifically, the legislation includes $15 billion to help airlines maintain their payrolls, $14 billion in operating assistance for mass transit, $10 billion for state highway maintenance and operations, and $2 billion for operation and personnel costs of airports.   Rep. Rush believes that it is vital that transit agencies, like the CTA, are able to continue to operate and to pay their workers during this difficult time.  It is also critical that they have the resources they need to keep both their employees and passengers safe and healthy.

Rep. Rush has long advocated for more equitable broadband access, and today’s legislation included several measures that made critical progress:

  • $3.2 billion for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which provides broadband household discounts of up to $50, or up to $75 on Tribal lands, off the cost of internet service and a subsidy for low-cost devices such as computers and tablets to eligible recipients.
     
  • Provides $1 billion for Tribal broadband programs.
     
  • $300 million in grants for rural broadband.
     
  • Appropriates $65 million to improve broadband map.
     
  • Establishes Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to focus on broadband access to and adoption at Historically Black Colleges or Universities and appropriates $285 million for pilot program.

​As schools and early childhood learning programs continue to navigate the COVID-19 Pandemic,  Rep. Rush was pleased to support the following measures in today’s relief package:

  • 54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
     
  • $22.7 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
     
  • $250 million for Head Start.

Rep. Rush’s Omnibus Government Funding Priorities Included

“Today’s package includes $2 million to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for the implementation of the Cold Case Record Collections Act of 2018.  The Cold Case Records Collections Act requires NARA to establish a public database of unsolved civil rights cases.  This ensures that those who were the victims of crimes which violated civil rights will never be lost to history.  I was proud to lead the effort for the passage of this bill in the House and am pleased to see that today’s package allocates the resources NARA needs to carry out its responsibilities under the law.”
 
Rep. Rush serves as the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy Subcommittee, and the following Energy priorities were enacted in the FY2021 Omnibus package:
  • $39.6 billion for the Department of Energy, an increase of $1 billion above the fiscal year 2020 level and $4.5 billion above the budget request.
     
  • $2.86 billion for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, an increase of $72 million above the fiscal year 2020 level and $2.1 billion above the President’s request.
     
  • $1.5 billion for Nuclear, an increase of $14.2 million above the fiscal year 2020 level and $328 million above the President’s request.
     
  • $7.026 billion for Science, an increase of $26 million above the fiscal year 2020 level and $1.2 billion above the President’s request.
     
  • $427 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy, an increase of $2 million above the fiscal year 2020 level and rejects the budget proposal to eliminate this program.

As our schools, education programs, and institutes of higher learning shape young minds into thoughtful and engaged citizens, the following measures were included in today’s package to support them:

  • $73.5 billion for the Department of Education, an increase of $785 million above the 2020 enacted level and $7 billion above the President’s budget request.
     
  • $40.6 billion for K-12 education programs, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, an increase of $498 million above the 2020 enacted level.
     
  • $24.5 billion for Federal student aid programs, an increase of $25 million above the 2020 enacted level.
     
  • $2.5 billion for higher education programs, an increase of $66 million above the 2020 enacted level.
     
  • $1.1 billion for Federal TRIO programs, an increase of $7 million above the 2020 enacted level.
     
  • $475 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), in 2023 advance funding, an increase of $10 million above the 2020 enacted level.
     
  • $257 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an increase of $5 million above the 2020 enacted level.

Environmental Protection

  • $9.24 billion in for the Environmental Protection Agency, an increase of $180 million above the 2020 enacted level and $2.53 billion above the budget request.
     
  • $566 million for environmental compliance monitoring and enforcement activities and grants, a $14 million increase above the 2020 enacted level and $41 million above the budget request.
     
  • $12.5 million for Environmental Justice activities, a $2.3 million increase above the 2020 enacted level and over four-fold increase above the budget request.
     
  • Includes the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, which passed the House on July 30, 2020.

Increased Funding for Great Lakes Maintenance

  • Secured $153 million, an increase of $2 million over Fiscal Year 2020, for the Army Corps Investigations account, so that more can be done to ensure that Chicago’s shoreline is protected from the ever-increasing water levels in Lake Michigan and the associated erosion taking place.   Rep. Rush led a letter to the Appropriations Committee asking for this increase in funding.  Flooding this year has resulted in near-record lake levels and coastal damage.  It is critical that the Army Corps has the resources it needs in order to identify long-term solutions to protect critical infrastructure.
Arts and Humanities
  • $167.50 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which rejects the President’s budget request proposal to eliminate the Agencies.
The FY2021 Omnibus package also included several key authorizing measures that advanced  Rep. Rush’s legislative priorities:
 
Infrastructure
  • $227.9 million in FY2021 for the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) pipeline safety program with an increase to $237.9 million by FY2023 for operational expenses, state pipeline safety grants, one-call notification program, and other programs.
     
  • Directs PHMSA to improve safety by requiring methane leak detection and repair programs, a study of standards for automatic shut-off valves on existing pipelines, and increasing inspection and enforcement personnel.

Energy

  • $303 million investment into advanced nuclear energy technologies and to support the modernization of existing operating nuclear power plants.
     
  • $1.73 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program to provide low-income communities with home energy efficiency retrofits and other weatherization services.
     
  • Reforms the Department of Energy’s Title XVII loan program to make $23.9 billion of existing funds to deploy emissions reduction technologies.
     
  • $36 million the Federal Energy Management Program to support federal agencies in meeting energy efficiency goals through public-private partnerships.
     
  • $75 million to deliver reliable clean energy to low-income and minority communities, including the deployment of energy storage grants and microgrids.

Environment

  • Reauthorized the diesel emission reduction program (DERA) until FY 2024.
     
  • Directs the Environmental Protection Agency to program to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 85 percent over 15 years.

Education

  • Reinstates Pell Grants to those convicted of drug offenses by lifting the prohibition of financial aid to incarcerated students or students convicted of drug offenses.
     
  • Expands the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) program process and simplifies the federal financial aid process to support low-income students in pursing higher education.

“In summary, this legislative package makes important strides in advancing equity and rebuilding our economy and the lives of all those who have been effected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  While no legislation is perfect, this bill is the result of months of painstaking negotiations and diligent attention to the needs of those across the country.  For these reasons, I am proud to have voted in favor of it.”

 
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