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Students back to school, Americans back to work

Students back to school, Americans back to work

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Roy Blunt (Wide)

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS), recently released a statement on the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act.

“This bill focuses on getting students back to school and getting Americans back to work as quickly and safely as possible. It also ensures we continue to work toward vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, and it provides additional resources for testing, treatment, and care,” said Blunt. “The Senate acted quickly to provide immediate, substantial relief for health care providers, schools, and employers through the CARES Act and other related legislation.

"Over the past few months, we have held more than 30 hearings to assess response efforts and understand what unmet needs remained. This bill reflects the priorities we have today and will have in the months ahead. House Democrats have put forward a proposal that's not serious. It's loaded with unnecessary and unrelated spending and policy provisions.

"At the same time, they’ve provided less than this proposal for critical needs like child care and vaccine development, manufacturing, and distribution. They need to come to the table and find a path forward that directs resources to where they are needed most: supporting kids, jobs, and health care.”

Following are highlights from the Labor/HHS section of the bill:

Reopening Schools Safely – $105 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund, including $70 billion for elementary and secondary schools, with more funding going to schools that physically reopen so they can do so safely; $29 billion for institutions of higher education; and $5 billion in flexible funding for governors to use for early childhood education, elementary and secondary education, or higher education, based on state needs.

Supporting Child Care and Family Services – More than $15 billion to help child care providers safely remain open or reopen and support family services, including $5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant; $10 billion for Back to Work Childcare Grants; and $190 million for family violence prevention and child welfare programs.

Expanding COVID-19 Testing – $16 billion for testing, contact tracing, and surveillance in states. This new funding, when combined with approximately $9 billion that remains unallocated from the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, would make $25 billion available for these purposes.

Continuing Progress Toward Vaccine Development, Manufacturing, and Distribution –$26 billion for COVID-19 vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic development, manufacturing, and distribution.

Conducting COVID-19 Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – $15.5 billion for NIH to reopen laboratories and conduct COVID-19 research, including how the disease impacts those with underlying conditions, minorities, pregnant women, and children.

Supporting Health Care Providers and Hospitals – The bill includes additional resources to ensure access to care, including $25 billion for hospitals and health care providers, bringing the total to $200 billion when combined with the previous COVID-19 bills; $7.6 billion for Community Health Centers; and $225 million for rural health clinics.

Ensuring Access to Mental Health and Addiction Treatment – $4.5 billion to support treatment for those who are struggling with an addiction or other mental health disorder and dealing with the secondary effects of the pandemic – like isolation, depression, and limited access to in-person meetings and treatment.

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