Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: March 20, 2020

Congress continues to take action to address the ongoing public health crisis resulting from the coronavirus. This week, the House of Representatives passed a comprehensive measure — the Families First Coronavirus Response Act — that bolstered the social safety net and supported working Americans by offering two weeks of paid sick days and 12 weeks of paid leave for health conditions related to COVID-19 (including the quarantine of one’s self or a loved one) or for caring for a child whose school is closed due to coronavirus. The comprehensive package also included increased Medicaid funding; guaranteed, no-cost coverage of coronavirus testing in public and private health insurance; and emergency funding for unemployment insurance and nutrition programs. Some of these provisions were later watered down; importantly, the paid leave provision was altered to be usable only for providing child care in the case of school closures. On Wednesday, the bill went before the Senate, where it passed and was later signed into law by the president, a move NCJW supported. While far from perfect, the new law is a first step to addressing the needs of workers and their families during this uncertain time.

The House and Senate are now negotiating the third Coronavirus response bill, a $1 trillion plus stimulus package designed to help the economy in this moment. The package will likely include increased funding for immigration enforcement, which NCJW and other immigration advocates oppose.

Meanwhile, members of Congress continue to introduce other measures to strengthen the social safety net for those whose health and livelihood are impacted by the virus. On Wednesday, Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the PAID Leave Act. The bill, supported by NCJW, would expand the emergency paid sick days and paid leave provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act by requiring all employers to provide 14 days of paid sick leave and 12 week of paid leave during a public health emergency. Both types of leave would apply to quarantine or isolation of one’s self or a family member, work closure for a public health emergency, or a child’s school closure due to a public health emergency. Additionally, it would require all employers to allow employees and independent contractors to accrue up to 7 paid sick days per year and enact the FAMILY Act, a bill NCJW supports, as of January 1, 2022.

The impacts of the coronavirus and the ensuing public health crisis are widely felt across all the issues NCJW cares about. The US Supreme Court has postponed March oral arguments and is closed for most businesses in the near future. States are trying to determine whether and how to proceed with primary elections. The United Nations has temporarily suspended refugee resettlement worldwide, but the US is continuing immigration enforcement with only minimal changes, and the president is threatening to close the southern border to asylum seekers. (The Interfaith Immigration Coalition, which NCJW co-chairs, called for an end to medical prejudice during the crisis.) In cooperation with insurance companies, seven states have initiated special enrollment periods allowing the uninsured to find health coverage.

NCJW was pleased to lead, along with MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, a Jewish community statement signed by more than 650 Jewish clergy as well as local, state, and national Jewish organizations. The statement, sent to the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, in addition to the Administration for Community Living and both chambers of Congress, calls for cooperation in increased and expanded federal support for people experiencing food insecurity in the wake of the coronavirus. Additionally, we launched a new petition for individuals calling on governors and policymakers to use every tool at their disposal to increase and expand nutrition assistance for those struggling with food insecurity given COVID-19. Please sign on today!

And, NCJW joined many sign on letters related to the coronavirus:

  • A letter to House and Senate leadership with 26 national organizations working to address domestic violence and sexual assault urging that the third stimulus package address survivors’ needs.
  • Letters to the House and Senate signed by more than 250 organizations calling out racism related to the coronavirus.
  • A letter to Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer signed by more than 50 organizations urging Congress to pass and implement federal paid sick days legislation in response to COVID-19.
  • A letter signed by hundreds of organizations urging Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release detainees.
  • A statement joined by civil rights organizations about the importance of continuing elections during the public health crisis.

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