Delgado Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Assist with Coronavirus Response

March 12, 2020
Press Release
Legislation would make additional benefits – nutrition assistance, unemployment assistance, and legal and crisis resources – available to individuals impacted by COVID-19

WASHINGTON, DC—Yesterday, U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) along with Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), and Dina Titus (NV-01) introduced the Pandemic Response and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, to help prepare our communities for the economic impacts of the coronavirus. The bill would expand the menu of benefits available under federal Emergency Declarations to include critical nutrition assistance, unemployment assistance for unemployed and self-employed individuals, legal services, crisis counseling and case management.

Currently, these benefits are only available following a Major Disaster Declaration by the President, but this designation is unfortunately not applicable in the event of an infectious disease outbreak like COVID-19. The PREP Act would allow the government to access additional resources for communities under Emergency Declarations to ensure the federal response aligns with the resources needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I joined with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to introduce the Pandemic Response and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act to bring our disaster preparedness laws in line with current needs facing the country during the Coronavirus outbreak,” said Representative Antonio Delgado. “We must come together to ensure the federal response utilizes every tool possible to address this pandemic and that means strengthening the benefits associated with federal Emergency Declarations. If passed, my bill would expand eligibility for food assistance, make small business employees and self-employed individuals eligible for unemployment benefits, and would provide critical legal, crisis, and case management assistance to low-income individuals during the response. I look forward to further reviewing the additional House stimulus package and also to working with my colleagues on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee to advance this bipartisan proposal soon.”

“As more cases of the novel coronavirus are confirmed in Washington state, the Southwest Washington citizens I represent are already feeling the impact. This is why it’s imperative we have emergency resources to lessen the negative effects on families and workers in coronavirus-impacted communities. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan bill to offer emergency support to residents who need food and nutrition assistance, financial assistance in the event they can’t work, and other crisis management tools,” said Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler.

“In response to a global pandemic, we must ensure that every arrow in the federal government’s quiver is available,” said Representative Dina Titus, Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. “The Pandemic Response and Emergency Preparedness Act allows critical resources to be deployed to assist our most vulnerable citizens. I want to commend Congressman Delgado for his strong leadership in bringing this legislation forward.”

The Pandemic Response and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act would expand the menu of benefits available under federal Emergency Declarations to include the following:

  • Disaster SNAP (D-SNAP), to expand eligibility for food assistance to include SNAP recipients as well as those who experience lost or no income due to COVID-19.   
  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance, to assist unemployed and self-employed individuals as well as individuals who lose wages because they are unable to report to work due to COVID-19.  
  • Disaster Legal Services, to provide free services to low-income individuals seeking help with securing benefits.
  • Disaster Crisis Counseling, to provide funding to states and local governments to aid community outreach and recovery services.  
  • Disaster Case Management, to assist survivors with recovery plans that address unmet needs.

Currently, a Major Disaster Declaration is required before a state becomes eligible for these benefits. Infectious disease outbreaks do not qualify as Major Disasters, meaning these benefits will be unavailable to states to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Rep. Delgado’s bill would ensure that these critical additional resources are made available under Emergency Declarations.