Udall, Heinrich Applaud Senate Passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) voted to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, legislation to provide free nation-wide testing for COVID-19 and initial economic relief for the impacts of the pandemic and the associated public health response. The bill is the second “phase” of coronavirus response passed by Congress. In addition to today’s legislation, Udall and Heinrich voted for the first measure – an $8.3 billion supplemental appropriations bill – and are working with Senate Democratic leadership to help craft a third, larger economic and public health response proposal.

“To take on this public health crisis, we must act swiftly to make sure that working people in New Mexico have what they need to stay healthy and provide for themselves and their families. Passing this legislation is the first – but by no means the last – step to provide economic relief and boost public health responses so that we can get through this crisis together,” Udall said. “This bill provides free testing for anyone who needs it, emergency unemployment insurance, an expansion of paid sick leave, food security assistance, and major new Medicaid funding for New Mexico. We are continuing to champion larger efforts – including more significant health and economic assistance to Americans. I commend the rapid response from public health officials in New Mexico, but the Trump administration needs to move faster to meet this crisis – to ensure widespread testing and to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed by future cases. The federal government must be prepared to do everything necessary to protect the health and economic well-being of New Mexicans.”

“The Senate put partisan politics aside to pass the emergency medical and immediate economic relief measures Americans are counting on as we confront this unprecedented public health crisis,” Heinrich said. “The Families First Coronavirus Response Act will provide the necessary resources to rapidly expand free COVID-19 testing for those who need it, an essential step toward getting a better handle on the spread of the virus, and funding to ensure meals are provided to seniors and those in need, including children who lost access to school meals due to closures. The bill will also ensure impacted workers and their families can access paid leave and unemployment insurance. So many New Mexicans are understandably worried about the well-being of their families and their businesses and uncertain about making ends meet. I want them to know that I am working night and day to do the right thing for them. I will continue doing everything in my power to fight for the resources we need for an effective, science-based public health response and also help the small business owners, workers, and families whose lives and livelihoods have been upended get back on their feet.”

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act will:

  •  Provide free testing- all individuals, including those with private insurance, Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, VA, FEHBP, and TRICARE, as well as the uninsured will have access to tests at no cost.
  • Strengthen food assistance-$1 billion to provide nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women and mothers with young children, help food banks, and provide meals to seniors. It also protects students’ access to school meals in the event of school closures.
  • Safeguard Medicaid benefits-increases the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) that the federal government provides to state and territorial Medicaid programs, preventing states from having to make cuts in Medicaid benefits. These changes are estimated to provide an additional amount of $250 million in federal Medicaid funding for New Mexico over a 12-month period.
  • Enhance Unemployment Aid- gives states the resources and flexibility to provide unemployment benefits to laid off and furloughed workers, as well as to those workers who exhaust their allotted paid leave.
  • Establish Paid Leave-the bill creates an Emergency Paid Leave Program that replaces a significant share of lost wages so that those who take leave to avoid spreading the virus or due to illness or caregiving responsibilities can pay their bills.