U.S. Sen. Tom Udall voiced frustration Tuesday over the Senate’s delay in taking up coronavirus relief legislation passed by the House on Saturday and backed by the White House.
“This should have passed a long time ago,” Udall said during a press call with members of the New Mexico media.
The Family First Coronavirus Response Act would provide free testing COVID-19 for all Americans. It would also provide federal assistance for paid sick leave, $1 billion for enhanced unemployed insurance for workers furloughed by the outbreak, $1 billion for food security programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), student meals, seniors’ nutrition and food banks, as well as increase federal funds for Medicaid to support local, state, tribal and territorial governments and health systems so that they have the resources necessary to combat this crisis, the senator said.
All three members of New Mexico’s House delegation, Democratic U.S. Reps. Deb Haaland, Ben Ray Luján and Xochitl Torres Small, supported the legislation in the House.
Udall said members of the Republican caucus have problems with the legislation. According to reports, Republican senators are concerned about the sick leave provisions of the bill.
The senator said the bill is one of the first federal response steps in relief for families. “It should not be the last,” Udall said.
The senator said he was among Senate Democrats crafting a more than $750 billion economic assistance package that includes both economic relief measures and public health emergency response funding.
The package would provide resources to increase hospitals’ treatment capacity. It would enhance unemployment insurance. It would put federal loan payments into forbearance and place moratoriums on evictions and mortgage foreclosures.
“It would also provide relief for small businesses,” Udall said.
The legislation would help childcare centers and help keep public transportation running, he said.
Udall criticized President Donald Trump over reports the president told governors, including New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, that they had to get respirators and other hospital equipment to treat the coronavirus on their own.
“The fact is, states and local governments have had to take the lead on this,” he said.
Udall said he and other lawmakers are urging the Trump administration to provide the resources for the ventilators and other supplies through provisions of the Defense Production Act.