December 20, 2020

Van Hollen Statement on Bipartisan COVID-19 Relief Package

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) released the following statement on the bipartisan COVID-19 relief package: 

“Congress has a moral responsibility to act now. With COVID-19 cases and economic pain on the rise in Maryland and across the country, the American people need real relief and cannot afford to wait any longer. The bipartisan plan released today – while not perfect – represents a serious step forward in providing that relief. I’m glad that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were able to come together and put this plan on the table, and I was pleased to have fought for many of the priorities that were included here and to have helped resolve the final dispute over the powers of the Federal Reserve. 
“This package makes important progress on provisions that will help Americans weather the storm this winter, including an extension of expanded unemployment benefits and the federal eviction moratorium, as well as rental and food assistance. It also includes direct payments to help millions of families and provides an infusion of funds to many of the programs that are key features of the bipartisan CARES Act, including a more-targeted Paycheck Protection Program focused on the small businesses most in need. In addition, the plan provides necessary resources for testing, tracing, and vaccine distribution. Over the past few days, I have also worked with my colleagues to include a number of provisions I’ve been fighting for since the beginning of the pandemic – including vital funding to extend economic relief for families and small businesses, support our transit systems, and bolster SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs.

“That being said, I remain disappointed that while this package provides funding for schools and other programs that will relieve budget pressures on state and local governments, it does not provide them with direct support. I strongly believe there is a need to ensure our cities and towns on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic have the funds necessary to keep our communities safe, provide emergency services, and employ first responders. But instead of providing this relief, McConnell demanded that Americans who may have been harmed by corporations give up their rights in order for states and localities to receive assistance. This is an unconscionable form of blackmail. I will not allow the pandemic to be used as a mechanism to strip Americans of their legal protections. Also, while I’m pleased we got additional funds for broadband – including to support the costs for low-income families – I’m outraged that Republicans refused to provide funding for students through the E-rate program. I will continue to fight on both of these fronts.

“This package does not include everything I had hoped for – and the Congress will need to work together with the Biden Administration to provide more support in the future. But this plan will help families, workers, and small businesses across the country get by this winter, and it would be unconscionable for Congress to leave without providing this essential help. I plan to support this legislation, and I urge my colleagues to vote for it.”