Congress passes Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Support Act, states fight for resources
Today, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Support Act, or the CARES Act. The $2 trillion stimulus is the third piece of coronavirus relief legislation passed by Congress.
The bill contained $150 billion in relief money for individual states. It is estimated that Michigan will receive $3.8 billion in aid from the bill.
Also included in the bill was $260 billion in expanded unemployment benefits, $260 billion in aid for hospitals in need of protective equipment, and direct cash payments for Americans: $1200 for each adult and $500 for each child, with the payments phasing out at an income of $75,000 per individual and $150,000 per household.
The Michigan delegation to Congress said that their efforts had been largely bipartisan, with Democrats and Republicans working together to get aid from the federal government.
Democratic U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin says that she’s been really pleased with the bipartisan efforts coming out of Michigan, but commented on the miscommunication that’s been happening among different federal agencies. She says that miscommunication has led to states fighting with each other for resources.
“Because we don’t have centralized control of the supply chain for PPE, we have governors and sometimes hospitals, counties, communities, battling it out with each other for supplies. The price is obviously going up precipitously. We’re now having to fight to make sure we get the orders we have in queue to the state of Michigan.”
According to Slotkin, FEMA and other federal agencies have had trouble providing consistent answers to representatives’ questions about federal aid for their districts. One issue is the CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile that has emergency resources in case of a pandemic. Slotkin says FEMA has been acting as a competitor to states because they also need to get supplies from the stockpile.
“We received our allotment before many many states, and there’s some really kind of crazy stories out there of states thinking they’re getting their full allotment and they got 650 pairs of gloves. That’s what I heard from Minnesota!” She adds, “Right now, every governor in the country and Governor Whitmer especially is just really just pedal to the floor trying to get our own orders in there.”
Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell agreed with Slotkin’s assessment, saying she’s seen confusion among suppliers of PPE.
“Last week, the president went out and told governors to get their own supplies. So the governors went out, and were trying to get their own supplies. I had suppliers telling me they felt caught in the middle. I know that there are a number of suppliers who have said that they think the federal government should be managing this so that it is not pitting governors against each other. So, some of the governors had things on the way, and suddenly, the federal government says, ‘You can’t ship them, we’re going to manage this at the federal level.’”
Dingell says there’s a desire to have one single person coordinating it all, something Slotkin agrees with. She’s introducing the concept of a supplies czar to manage orders of emergency PPE for healthcare workers.