As we shelter in place here in New York, I am working hard to bring resources home to our city and state and make sure that every New Yorker has the support they need to stay safe and healthy.
House Committee on Oversight and Reform
As Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, I am conducting oversight of our nation’s preparedness for, and response to, the outbreak. The Committee’s top priority is the health and safety of the American people.
On March 11 and 12, I held a hearing to examine the Trump Administration’s preparedness for and initial response to the COVID-19 crisis. During this hearing, Dr. Fauci testified that Americans should expect “more cases and things will get worse than they are right now.” It was after this hearing that the NBA cancelled its season, that the NCAA cancelled March Madness, and that numerous other businesses began to shut down. Many refer to this testimony and hearing as a turning point.
Forward Thinking: Affordable & Available Testing, Treatment, and Immunization
Keeping Medication and Vaccines Affordable
On April 2, I called on all members of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) to commit to setting affordable prices for any medications that are or may be used to prevent or treat coronavirus, including vaccines. In order to end the ongoing coronavirus crisis, every American—regardless of income or insurance status—must be able to afford any drug that is effective in preventing or treating the virus. It would be irresponsible and a danger to our entire nation to prevent any American from obtaining treatment because of the costs they may face. You can read my full letter to PhRMA here and more about my work on healthcare in general here.
Getting the FDA to Change Its Discriminatory Blood Donation Policy
On April 1, I joined with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to immediately revise its policy of turning away blood donations from gay and bisexual men in light of the long-term impacts of the coronavirus crisis on the nation’s blood supply. The following day, the FDA did just that. While shortening the deferral period for gay and bisexual men is a good first step, it is critical that FDA move toward assessing potential donors by individual risk, rather than blanket deferral. A policy that fails to do this perpetuates stigma and falls short of ensuring that every person who can safely donate blood in the United States has the opportunity to do so.
On May 7, I was joined by Representatives Jamie Raskin, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Katie Porter, and Deb Haaland in urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow men who have sex with men (MSM) and who have recovered from coronavirus to safely donate plasma in support of treatment research efforts. Shortening the MSM deferral period was a good first step. However, FDA’s policy continues to exclude gay and bisexual men who can safely donate blood and blood products—including those who have recovered from coronavirus and can safely donate plasma to support treatment research efforts.
FEMA Major Disaster Declaration
On Friday March 20, I hosted a telephone briefing for the Oversight Committee with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter T. Gaynor on the Administration’s preparation for, and response to, the coronavirus crisis. During this briefing, when I pressed the director about a Major Disaster Declaration for New York State, he noted that this declaration was “imminent.” In the midst of a public health epidemic, this Major Disaster Declaration brought NYS one step closer to unlocking billions of dollars in direct aid for services and medical supplies that would save lives and protect public health. Read more here.
Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act
Modeled after the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), this new fund created by the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act would provide compensation for injuries to any individual, or their families, who are deemed an essential worker and required to leave their home to perform services and who have become ill or died as a result of COVID-19. On September 11th, it was the firefighters and officers who ran into the burning buildings to save lives. Today, it is hospital workers – nurses, doctors, EMS, janitorial staff, pharmacists, technicians, and all essential workers. We owe them more than applause at 7pm. In this fight against the Coronavirus, it is the first responders, retail workers, transit workers, grocery store clerks, delivery workers, janitorial staff, sanitation workers, mail carriers, hospitality workers, and federal, state and local employees who are on the frontlines, walking in to the fire every day as they risk their health to make sure we are safe, fed, and healthy. You can read more about this bill here.
Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act
Frontline health workers are delivering care to the sickest patients and putting their own safety at great risk in order to keep doing their jobs, and in return, I believe that we have an obligation to ensure that they are relieved of the debt they incurred to train for this critical work – in graduate degree programs or other professional certification. Health care workers are worrying about their own health and how it will affect their families. They should not have to worry about their financial security after the crisis has passed. That is a burden that we can lift right now. And this bill will do that by forgiving public and private loans associated with their professional education. It will help take care of the people taking care of all of us. You can read more about this bill here.
Stop Overdraft Profiteering During COVID-19 Emergency Act
In late April, I joined with Congressman David Cicilline to introduce the Stop Overdraft Profiteering During COVID-19 Emergency Act to prohibit banks from collecting overdraft fees during the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill builds on my Overdraft Protection Act of 2019. You can read more about my bill with Rep. Cicilline here and the Overdraft Protection Act of 2019 here.
Pandemic Risk Insurance Act
The coronavirus crisis has caused unprecedented damage to our economy, forcing businesses across the nation to close their doors. While business interruption insurance typically compensates business owners when they need to shut down due to exigent circumstances – like a tornado ripping through Main Street – those policies explicitly exclude pandemics. That is why I am sponsoring the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act, a forward-looking solution that would provide a federal backstop for business interruption insurance that includes coverage for pandemics. This will help relieve some of the economic losses that businesses are suffering, and will protect businesses and our economy from future pandemics.
My bill would require insurance companies to offer business interruption insurance policies — including event cancellation — that include pandemics, and would create a Pandemic Risk Reinsurance Program that will share this burden between insurance companies and the federal government to ensure there is enough funding to cover losses caused by any future pandemics.
Protections for Renters
I am a proud cosponsor of:
- the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020, legislation to create a $100 billion emergency rental assistance fund; and
- H.R. 6515, the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act of 2020, which would suspend rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 crisis and create a Rental Relief Fund and a Lender Relief Fund to which landlords and mortgage holders can apply to have the full cost of the suspended payments covered by the federal government.
I support State Senator Gianaris’s effort to expand the eviction moratorium to a 90-day moratorium on all commercial and residential rent payments as we come to grips with the economic impact of this pandemic. This would track similar emergency proposals enacted by the Governor to allow homeowners to delay mortgage payments for up to 90 days. I also support Assemblyman Joe Lentol and State Senator Brian Kavanaugh’s work to create a rental assistance voucher program for anyone who has been economically impacted by this crisis. I am committed to getting New York State the federal aid it needs to implement these necessary programs.
Standing Up for NYCHA Residents
On April 7, I led members of the New York City Delegation in urging New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Chairman and CEO Gregory Russ to improve the agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, specifically addressing concerns brought forward by NYCHA residents regarding proper cleaning and sanitation and communication with residents. You can read our full letter to the Chairman here.
On April 21, Governor Cuomo announced expanded health care services and testing for NYCHA residents. You can read more here.
Protections for Homeowners
On March 18, 106 Members of Congress joined me in calling for an immediate, nationwide moratorium on all foreclosures and evictions from properties owned, insured, or overseen by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) in light of the developing coronavirus epidemic. All told, these agencies account for more than 63% of all mortgages originated in the United States. This request was granted by the relevant agencies.
Supporting New York City & State Needs
In early March, I led a bipartisan group of New York Delegation members in requesting much needed funding for the MTA in any upcoming relief packages. We were successful in securing much of this funding. You can read our initial request here.
On March 25, I led the entire bipartisan New York State House Delegation in urging Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to send 20,000 ventilators to New York State from the national stockpile. You can read the full request here.
I am also a cosponsor of H.Res.906 a resolution calling on the President to use his authority on the Defense Production Act for the production of medical supplies to meet the critical need and demand during the coronavirus crisis.
Fighting for the Postal Service
In addition to my work as Oversight Chair to support the Postal Service, I joined with my colleagues Representatives Peter King (R-NY), Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Mark Amodei (R-NV) to create the Postal Preservation Caucus. I also led, with Congressman Peter King, a bipartisan New York Delegation request to House and Senate leadership to provide immediate help to the Postal Service. You can read more about the Postal Preservation Caucus here and the letter I led with Rep. King here.
New York’s museums provide 61,000 jobs and generate $5.4 billion in annual revenue. This is not an industry we can afford to lose – culturally or financially. Therefore, I led, with Congressman Nadler, New York delegation members in a request to House leadership to include funding to support nonprofit cultural and arts institutions. We were successful in securing key funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. You can read the initial request here.
In a follow up to this initial request, Rep. Nadler and I led a second request on April 28 to House leadership, asking them to provide additional assistance to the country’s museums, libraries, and cultural institutions in the next coronavirus recovery package. The nation’s arts and cultural sector accounts for approximately 4.5% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). You can read this request here.
On April 22, fourteen of my New York Delegation colleagues joined me in urging the Small Business Administration (SBA) to expand eligibility parameters of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) so that nonprofits and cultural institutions, regardless of size, can participate in this program. You can read more about this effort here.
Bringing Home New Yorkers Stuck Abroad
Closed borders, movement restrictions, cancelled flights, and mandatory quarantines due to coronavirus severely hindered travel and left many Americans stranded outside of the United States. My office worked with the State Department to bring home more than 65 constituents stuck abroad due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Working to Protect Incarcerated Individuals and Immigrant Detainees
In early May, I joined Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Karen Bass (D-CA) in urging House and Senate leadership to address the needs of incarcerated individuals, returning citizens and those who work in correctional facilities in further relief packages. You can read the full letter here.
In addition to my work with the Oversight Committee in demanding answers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the Administration’s treatment of migrant detainees during the coronavirus crisis and urging the release of nonviolent detainee, I am cosponsoring Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s (D-WA) Federal Immigrant Release for Safety and Security (FIRST) Act. This bill would prevent the unnecessary spread of COVID-19 in immigration detention by ensuring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) following the advisory of public health experts and reduces the population of individuals in immigrant detention facilities.
In early April, I joined with Congresswoman Cindy Axne (D-IA) in urging the Trump Administration to immediately suspend all tariffs on medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE). You can read our full letter to the Administration here.
In late April, I joined with a bipartisan group of my colleagues in urging House leadership to include an increase in funding in the CARES package for programs that mitigate suicide risks in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read the full letter here.
In early May, I joined Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Tammy Baldwin (D-CI) and Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) on a bicameral letter addressing the need for LGBTQ data collection during the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter calls on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to fulfill its commitment to its Healthy People 2020 objectives by collection data on sexual orientation and gender identity. You can read the full letter here.
House-Passed Coronavirus Response Packages
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
I was proud to support and vote for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, our second COVID-19 response package, to provide paid sick leave, paid family and medical leave, and free coronavirus testing to everyone who needs it, to enhance unemployment insurance, to strengthen food security initiatives, and to increase funding for the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). Read more here.
The CARES Act
This package was not perfect - far from it - but it was necessary and essential to get done. This bill included more than $40 billion for New York – not just for the state and city, but directly to our hospitals and healthcare workers, and to our small businesses, particularly and uniquely for employee retention. This was also the package which included the initial direct payments (stimulus checks) for individuals and families and significantly more resources for those who have been laid off or furloughed because of this crisis. Read more about the bill here and my statement for the Congressional Record here.
Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act
This bill was a far cry from the insufficient Republican proposal that did not help our hospitals and health workers and left behind many of our most vulnerable small businesses. I am proud of the work done by Congressional Democrats to make this bill a bipartisan deal that follows the path set by the bipartisan CARES Act. You can read more about the bill here and watch and read my full floor speech here.
The Heroes Act
I am very proud that so many priorities of the Committee on Oversight and Reform were included in this bill including funding to ensure that the Postal Service can continue serving the American people through this crisis. In addition, this bill recognizes that Congress has a constitutional responsibility to help ensure a fair and accurate Census and extends key deadlines as a result of the coronavirus crisis while enhancing congressional oversight of Census operations. Also, in response to the Administration fighting oversight tooth and nail, this bill includes protections to promote the independence of Inspectors General and help them hold agencies accountable.
In addition to these Committee victories, this bill will provide $100 billion in total relief to New York State – emergency aid that is desperately needed by the state that is on the frontline of our national fight against coronavirus, with more than $17 billion directly for New York City. The bill also includes critical support for renters, which is especially important in New York; for people who have lost their jobs, the Federal government will pay their rent for them with a $100 billion fund.
More on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed President Donald Trump’s administration to wind down population counting for the 2020 U.S. census earlier than planned, in a blow to civil rights groups concerned about an undercount, particularly of racial minorities.
The justices blocked a lower-court ruling that had ordered the decennial population count be continued until Oct. 31. The Census Bureau said on Aug. 3 that it would wind down data collection by Sept. 30, a month earlier than originally scheduled.
House Democrats overseeing the Trump administration's coronavirus response will introduce a largely symbolic bill intended to limit the administration's ability to spend federal funds on certain coronavirus-related advertisements before the election, according to a draft shared first with POLITICO.
House Democrats are opening an investigation into the Defense Department’s decision to divert hundreds of millions of dollars in funds meant to build up the country’s medical supplies to defense contractors instead.
The investigation comes after The Washington Post reported last week that the Pentagon began funneling the funds to private companies building military supplies shortly after Congress set aside the money in the $2 trillion Cares Act in March.
The heads of several House subpanels on Friday called for the Pentagon to turn over documents on how it used $1 billion in coronavirus relief funds, citing the Defense Department’s use of much of the money to pay defense contractors rather than buy medical supplies.
“We are investigating whether the Department of Defense (DOD) inappropriately used hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars appropriated by Congress in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act,” lawmakers wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
House lawmakers on Thursday questioned the findings of the law firm hired by Kodak’s special committee to conduct an internal review of events surrounding a planned $765 million federal loan that sent the company’s stock price soaring.
Securities transactions made by Kodak CEO Jim Continenza around the time the company learned it could receive the massive loan prompted investigations by lawmakers. Suspicious trading activity around the time of the announcement has also raised concerns about the manner in which the deal was disclosed.
WASHINGTON — Michael R. Caputo, the embattled top spokesman of the Department of Health and Human Services, will take a leave of absence “to focus on his health and the well-being of his family,” the department announced on Wednesday, three days after Mr. Caputo accused federal scientists of “sedition.”
A science adviser Mr. Caputo hired to help him, Dr. Paul Alexander, will be leaving the department.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Democrats have opened an investigation into appointed Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials interfered with scientific reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about COVID-19, following a report from Politico.
Business groups are throwing their support behind a pandemic insurance bill modeled after a post-9/11 law that created a federal backstop for claims related to acts of terrorism.
The Pandemic Risk Insurance Act, much like the 2002 Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), would provide compensation for losses resulting from pandemics or public health emergencies.