Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Delaware, provided a legislative update to Delawareans on March 20 during the coronavirus outbreak.
“While I am following the guidelines from the CDC and practicing social distancing by teleworking this week, I want Delawareans to know my team and I are still hard at work, holding conference calls with stakeholders, and looking for legislative solutions to this public health crisis,” said Blunt Rochester. “Moving forward, I will be providing constituents with regular updates on legislative actions I am taking to combat COVID-19 and its wide-ranging implications.”
A week prior, the House of Representatives passed two bipartisan response packages to the COVID-19 outbreak, HR 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, and HR 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Negotiations are underway for a third Congressional response package.
Blunt Rochester hosted a telephone town hall March 17 with Karyl Rattay, the director of the Delaware Division of Public Health to inform Delawareans about the virus and the actions being taken in Congress. The telephone town hall had nearly 16,000 participants and more than 300 submitted questions.
Blunt Rochester was an original cosponsor of the Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act. The bill would support veterans using GI Bill and other VA-related education programs by:
— Providing the stipend for vets who will be in school in the next term, if the virus persists;
— Allowing VA to provide work-study benefits veterans would have received otherwise if the virus didn’t shut everything down;
— Would not count minimum work-study requirements for those in the program; and
— If schools temporarily close for any reason, the bill would allow VA to provide those student vets with an additional monthly housing payment to help them get back on their feet. It would also extend an additional payment once every six months depending on the duration of the crisis.
Blunt Rochester also cosponsored HR 6275 Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act.
— Would provide $1.2 billion in Education Preparedness and Support Grants to Governors to help impacted school districts and higher education institutions;
— Would provide $600 million in grants to early care and education programs to allow them to maintain critical program operations; and
— Would provide $1.2 billion in emergency financial aid to students in higher education to help them address their basic needs created or exacerbated by unexpected closures due to the coronavirus.
Blunt Rochester cosponsored a bill which puts in place the benefit expansions in H.R. 860, the Social Security 2100 Act immediately, through Dec. 31. The bill would:
— Increase Social Security benefits on average 2% across the board to all 64 million Americans currently receiving Social Security benefits and any that become eligible between the date of enactment and Dec. 31, 2020;
— Increase the threshold for Special Minimum Benefit to 125% of the federal poverty rate; and
— Reduce tax on Social Security benefits for lower- and middle-income taxpayers.
On March 18, Blunt Rochester called on Delaware utility companies to keep the lights and water on during this period of social distancing.