Weekly Democratic Address
March 27, 2020
I’m Gary Peters, proudly representing Michigan in the United States Senate. Typically, you’d see the Democratic Weekly Address from a studio, but like Americans across the country, I’m practicing social distancing and joining you here from my home in Michigan.
There’s no doubt that we’re facing an unprecedented public health emergency, and an economic crisis of epic proportions. As cases of coronavirus are skyrocketing, I, along with my Senate Democratic colleagues, are working to protect the health and safety of people across our nation.
Families here in Michigan, and Americans all across the country, are struggling. They’re worried about their health and safety, worried about whether they’ll be able to make ends meet and worried about whether help is on the way.
Well, after working around the clock, and pressing for significantly more funding and federal resources for our heroic health care professionals on the front lines, we negotiated and passed the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act – also known as the CARES Act.
This package is not perfect, but it’ll provide urgent relief to the American people, the engine of our economy – small businesses – and to our overstretched health care system.
It will help Americans who are forced to stay home and aren’t receiving a paycheck or who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. A record-high 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week.
But help is on the way, and we have your back.
After leading the charge to expand unemployment insurance, with my colleagues Senator Wyden and Leader Schumer, we secured a historic expansion of these benefits. Through this bill, workers can receive $600 per week in additional unemployment compensation. We’ve also included a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for anyone covered by traditional unemployment insurance, and up to 39 weeks of assistance overall. Workers who aren’t typically eligible for unemployment assistance can get these benefits. If you can’t work or have been laid off, we have your back.
Whether you’re a small business owner, freelance worker, independent contractor, working in the gig economy, a seasonal worker, or you’ve recently started or were about to start a new job, you can receive unemployment assistance. We also secured federal funding for states, to eliminate the typical weeklong waiting period between applying for and receiving unemployment assistance.
No American worker should have to wonder if they can pay their rent or put food on the table. No one should have to make these choices.
And as workers and families face extraordinary personal health and financial challenges, our main-street small businesses are reeling, too. Some small businesses are at risk of having to close their doors or lay off their employees. They are the backbone of our economy and they need support, now more than ever.
And that’s why we expanded funding available for small business loans in the CARES Act. This package increases the funding for the popular and very successful 7(a) small business loan program. In fact, it expanded it to $350 billion. It provides $240 million for small business development centers and women’s business centers. And it increases funding for minority centers as well.
This will help enable small businesses to pay their rent and keep the lights on. We worked day and night to make sure this legislation provides drastically more critical funding for our hospitals and health care system than what was initially proposed.
Many of our hospitals across the country, including in rural communities, are in dire straits. This funding will ensure that our overstretched hospitals can make up for lost revenue, keep their doors open, and make payroll for the selfless, dedicated and brave nurses, doctors and health care professionals who are fighting day and night to stop this pandemic. We must also help ensure they have more resources, supplies, gloves and masks and medical equipment, to protect themselves and their patients from coronavirus.
Our work is far from done. We must ensure that the people who need help the most get it. The sweeping legislation we’ve passed is an important step as we navigate this crisis, but it’s not the last action we’ll need to take.
We don’t know how long this pandemic will last, but you can count on us to be there every step of the way.
For over 200 years, the American people have shown resilience in the face of great challenges. From civil wars, to international conflicts, and yes, pandemics, we have faced these challenges united and with resolve. And like the challenges of the past, together, we will overcome the coronavirus pandemic.