U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley said Monday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded $7.2 million to Oregon to help with its coronavirus response.
Merkley and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden are pushing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to create a comprehensive plan to protect veterans against the COVID-19 outbreak.
U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio is also pressing the federal government to increase testing capabilities, protective equipment and medical supplies so that all Oregonians can get tested.
And U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, appears to have taken a page out of former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s book — suggesting every American immediately be sent a $1,000 check.
These are among the actions federal leaders are letting their constituents know about this week as concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak grow. As 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the number of Oregonians who have tested positive for the disease is 51, but limited tests are available.
Merkley, Wyden and 10 other senators wrote a letter to Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, last Thursday.
The Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon has now reported 13 residents have been diagnosed with the potentially fatal illness, and have put the facility in lockdown. A patient at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center died Saturday after having tested positive for the virus.
“We write to request details regarding VA’s approach to coronavirus preparedness and how the Department’s response had changed. We recognize that the COVID-19 outbreak is an evolving situation, with a growing impact on the U.S. and global community and want to ensure that the VA has all of the resources needed to keep veterans, staff, and communities safe,” the senators wrote in the letter.
DeFazio has also reached out to the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the regional network that oversees it to request information about preparedness and the response to COVID-19.
DeFazio also issued a statement Monday saying he had voted in support of a House bill that will provide economic assistance and relief to families and small businesses impacted by the outbreak. The bill provides $1.2 billion in nutrition assistance and gives states money to provide free and reduced-price lunches while schools are closed.
The legislation also would ensure that COVID-19 testing is free for everyone. The House is already working on another emergency response package, DeFazio said.
“As this situation develops, I will continue working to ensure that the federal government provides all necessary resources as well as financial assistance to Oregonians, and that there is a coordinated response at all levels to tackle this public health threat,” DeFazio said.
The Romney plan, according to a press release from his office, also includes grants to small businesses that lost 50% of their revenue compared with the same month last year. Unexpected costs due to COVID-10 would be included as a factor in Pell Grants and recent graduates would have loan deferment. Insurance plans would also be required to temporarily cover telehealth services.
Wyden has joined other Democratic senators calling for emergency unemployment insurance, paid sick days, loan payment relief, rental assistance and small business relief.
Wyden’s office said via email Monday that “Senator Wyden is considering Senator Romney’s proposal while working round-the-clock on this comprehensive response for unemployment, sick leave, assistance for rent and mortgages, anti-hunger programs and more in Oregon and nationwide.”