Delgado telephone town hall focuses on COVID-19 relief
With the ink still fresh on the nation’s largest-ever economic stimulus package, a local health care executive joined U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, on a telephone town hall to address the COVID-19 pandemic Friday afternoon.
Claire Parde, executive director of The Healthcare Consortium of Columbia and Greene Counties, and Delgado outlined support that is in place during the coronavirus public health emergency.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, includes an expansion of unemployment benefits, relief for small businesses and disaster protections for farmers, Delgado said, just hours after President Donald Trump signed the $2 trillion package into law.
As unemployment soars, Parde called attention to the importance of maintaining health insurance and promoted the use of telehealth services.
The Healthcare Consortium is ready to assist workers who lose their health insurance due to unemployment during the COVID-19 shutdown, she said.
“The Healthcare Consortium is happy to help any constituent accessing health or human services throughout the district. We can both help with health insurance enrollment for people whose circumstances have changed and may find that they are newly eligible. It is imperative to maintain health insurance,” Parde said.
Anyone seeking assistance is encouraged to access resources by calling 518-822-8820 or going to columbiahealthnet.org, Parde said.
Parde also encouraged newly unemployed people to use New York State of Health, the state’s marketplace for health insurance options.
“That includes the public health insurance options, Medicaid, the Essential Plan, Child Health Plus, as well as the commercial self-pay products, which are called Qualified Health Plans,” she said. “There are navigators in every single county of New York state that are poised to assist individuals in shopping for and enrolling in health insurance.”
Parde reassured residents of Greene and Columbia counties that health services would continue to be available by telephone during the COVID-19 crisis.
“My own organization and all of those in our assistance networks continue to deliver services. There is help available to those who want and need it,” she said.
Delgado explained the major elements of the CARES Act and took questions from callers about how the legislation will help those struggling amid the crisis.
The bill will provide a direct tax rebate of $1,200 to individuals with an income of less than $75,000 annually, as part of the bill’s $150 billion in aid to states.
The package will also increase unemployment compensation and expand eligibility to include gig, self-employed, part-time and contract workers.
“The federal government will provide an additional $600 per week to individuals receiving unemployment compensation through July 2020. This is in addition to the state-provided benefit amount,” Delgado said.
“You can now add an additional 13 weeks, once the state benefits are exhausted, of federally funded benefits,” he said.
Workers with reduced hours may also be eligible to receive partial unemployment compensation for the loss of wage hours.
Small businesses that can prove their economic troubles were caused by the COVID-19 crisis are eligible for a minimum of six months of relief on all Small Business Administration [SBA] loans, as well as new grants and payroll protection, legislation that Delgado advocated for during stimulus negotiations, he said.
“I am proud that the CARES Act includes my bill, the Small Business Repayment Relief Act legislation, which will automatically trigger six months of payments, including principals, interest and fees, by the SBA on all current and new qualified SBA loans,” he said.
Emergency economic injury grants of up to $10,000 would soon become available for small- and medium-sized businesses and non-profits, Delgado announced.
For assistance applying for loans and grants, Columbia and Greene county small business owners can contact the Small Business Development Centers located at SUNY Albany or SUNY Ulster. The Mid-Hudson center at SUNY Ulster can be reached by emailing email@example.com; the center at SUNY Albany can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The bill includes a paycheck protection program, which will allow small- and mid-sized businesses to receive no-fee SBA loans to cover 2.5 months of payroll. Businesses that retain their employees may be eligible for up to 100% loan forgiveness.
“There is flexibility in the paycheck protection program to allow businesses to hire new or returning employees by June 30th and still qualify under the headcount requirements,” Delgado said.
The congressman said he is pleased that the CARES Act includes $9.5 billion in disaster assistance for farmers, which he advocated for in a letter to congressional leaders during negotiations.
“This was something that I worked on very aggressively along with Congresswoman [Chellie] Pingree out of Maine, to ensure that our farmers, particularly the small- and mid-sized ones, the specialty crops, fruits, vegetables, the folks who are local producers who rely on farmers markets, who are going through a pinch right now are provided the support that they need,” he said.
In addition to the $9.5 billion in assistance for agriculture producers, the package also includes $14 billion to stabilize and protect farm income and prices through the Commodity Credit Corporation, a federal program housed within the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA], according to the USDA website.
Parde thanked Delgado for taking the epidemic seriously and for “sending very clear public health messages.”
“It is unfortunate that sometimes those messages are mixed at the federal level, but our own elected officials are giving proper weight to the epidemic and serving as a great resource,” she said.
Delgado’s office will make available a resource guide to help constituents navigate provisions laid out in the CARE Act, he said.