- Interim package (or COVID package 3.5) passed Senate and House. Purpose of the interim bill: Payment Protection Program (PPP) also known as small business loans ran out of funding. This interim package provides more funding to PPP and some funding to hospitals.
- The bill will provide an immediate $321 billion infusion for the Paycheck Protection Program which ran out of money last week. The package also provides another $60 billion in economic disaster loans for small businesses, $75 billion in emergency relief for hospitals and $25 billion to increase coronavirus testing. The package does not include any relief for local governments
- It was not possible to include immigrant provisions like Medicaid in this bill since the Republicans narrowed the scope of it so thoroughly.
- COVID package 4 (or CARES 2) is delayed due to Congress’ urgency in passing the interim package. Both chambers of Congress will not return to DC until at least May 4th. The bill that Pelosi is writing to negotiate with the Senate is also delayed.
March 20 Update / Background on COVID-19 Policy Work
- The first package (enacted March 6) provided $8 billion to COVID-19 relief, $5 billion of which went to drug manufacturing, vaccine development, and public health.
- The second package focused on free testing, paid sick leave to workers at companies between 50-500 employees, and unemployment benefits. The bill’s provisions allowing state Medicaid to cover testing excludes undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients, and TPS holders, and we are pushing for a fix to this in the third phase of COVID-19 response legislation. See link for information on healthcare for immigrants and their families in the new bill.
- This third package, originating from Senate GOP, leaves out low-income workers and undocumented folx and most benefits wealthy corporations. House Democrats released their own bill that is more inclusive of undocumented immigrants and low-income workers.
3rd Emergency Legislation Policy Work
- On Tuesday March 24, NAKASEC tweeted at congressional offices the inhumanity in the Senate GOP bill (which leaves out low-income workers and undocumented folx and most benefits wealthy corporations).
- On Monday March 23, NAKASEC & Affiliates sent a letter to 33 congressional offices reiterating that our collective welfare depends on the full inclusion of all individuals living and interacting in this country, and that no one be left out from testing, treatment, and socioeconomic relief, regardless of immigration status.
- On Friday March 20, NAKASEC sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Senators Durbin, Murray, Menendez, Sanders, Schumer, Warren, Bennet, Brown, Booker, Duckworth, Kaine, Warner, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus to include undocumented immigrants in all aspects of the bill. We also attached to the offices a letter of immigrant-related priorities (signed by 340 organizations including NAKASEC) and Win Without War’s 5 key demands.
- We and 340+ other organizations signed onto a letter by National Immigration Law Coalition to Democratic leadership: Immigrant Exclusion from COVID 3.0 Health and Economic Relief.
- We signed onto Rep. TJ Cox’s letter to House and Senate leadership urging them to prioritize the availability of COVID-19 testing for all people, regardless of immigration status, (e.g. opening up the Medicaid testing and ensuring that use isn’t counted against people in the public charge analysis).
- United We Dream and other organizations started a multi-demand petition which we signed and you can sign too! (protectallpeople.com) Help amplify the demands, share graphics, and sign on to the petition.
Demanding that All Detainees Be Released
Detention create provide disastrous conditions for the spread of diseases, including contributing factors such as the lack of access to hand washing, chronic understaffing, lack of access to testing, GEO-operated and other detention centers’ history of outbreaks (ex. mumps), and unsanitary conditions (i.e. blood and feces smeared against walls).
- Detention Watch Network has circulated a petition to #FreeThemAll, which we signed. We also signed the organizational letter.
- ACLU is doing a lawsuit asking to release immigrants especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
- Letters are being sent to Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida governors. (Ask NAKASEC for a template letter!)
- American Immigration Council filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with DHS-ICE seeking to uncover guidance, policies, protocols, and also data related to ICE’s handling of the virus within ICE detention facilities.
- NAKASEC is also participating in a petition started by Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and Daily Kos calling for ICE to suspend all immigration enforcement activities, particularly near medical facilities, and implement community-based detention alternatives to alleviate mass overcrowding in detention facilities in order to assure immigrants feel safe to receive medical attention during the coronavirus outbreak.
Stopping Inclusion of Detention/Deportation Funding in Emergency Legislation #3
The administration requested to Congress to increase funding for ICE with $249 million to convert four facilities into dedicated quarantine facilities and CBP with $567 million for nine quarantine facilities.
- Defund Hate Coalition is circulating a Dear Colleague letter to all congressional offices. This letter, led by Torres, Jayapal, and Chu, asks for limits to transfer funding. Action: Reach out to your Member of Congress!
Suspending Court Hearings during COVID-19
- USCIS has suspended all in-person services.
- The New York Times reported earlier this week that the administration is refusing entry to asylum-seekers at the southern border in light of COVID-19, effectively closing down the border except for ports of entry. Canada and the U.S. have closed the northern border to all “non-essential” travel and Canada is refusing entry to asylum-seekers.
- The administration has temporarily suspended refugee resettlement in the U.S.
- ICE reported it will reduce enforcement except for “priority cases,” targeting those with criminal backgrounds.
- On Friday, we joined a letter with other organizations asking the Department of Justice to suspend all immigration court hearings.
After the first three packages have been enacted into law, we are looking at a fourth package. Speaker Pelosi told a reporter not to expect a fourth bill before Congress returns after Easter and Passover. Reports reflect that Pelosi is eyeing another round of direct cash payments in the fourth bill. We will make sure to push for our priorities in a fourth bill – inclusion of ALL communities, regardless of status, in COVID-19 relief provisions.
Last week, on March 26 and March 27, NAKASEC sent two statements to Congress urging them to include immigrant communities in relief provisions. We are hopeful that a fourth package will be inclusive of our communities.
Senate approved the final package and it is expected to go through House on Friday. See summary of bill:
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
- Excludes noncitizens who are not work authorized or were not work authorized when they were working.
Direct Cash Assistance
- Excludes families with at least one individual who uses Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) to file taxes, even if some in the family have Social Security Numbers (SSNs) that are valid for employment. There is a limited exception for military families if at least one spouse has a valid SSN.
- Everyone in the family must have a SSN. Thus, a child with a SSN would not be able to obtain the cash assistance if a parent undocumented. If a married couple files together and one person is undocumented, both of them are disqualified from assistance.
Broad Bill Provisions We Condemn
- $500 billion slush fund that Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnunchin has discretion to funnel to corporations with few or easily waived restrictions
- Expansion of discriminatory and unjust federal restrictions that block individuals from accessing abortion care
- Lack of addressing Puerto Rico’s particular needs; While the Senate bill has included Puerto Rico and other territories in most of its provisions, Puerto Rico’s particular needs — increasing SNAP benefits, leveling tax credits, and ensuring that cash aid will reach the most vulnerable populations—have not been met in this package.
- Failure to increase SNAP benefits, despite lessons from history – the temporary SNAP benefit increase in the Great Recession was key to preventing increases in poverty.
Broad Bill Provisions We Support
- $350 million for “Migration and Refugee Assistance” under the Department of State.
- Avoiding specific bailouts for the fossil fuel industry.
- No new funds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection. Transfer and reprogramming restrictions attached to Department of Homeland Security operational money. The bill prevents Department of Defense funds from being diverted for border wall construction on the southern border.
Senate has not voted, although we expect them to vote today or tomorrow. If Pelosi’s caucus agrees, then bill will likely go straight through Senate and House.
We hope Pelosi’s bill will go into a 4th package, since the Senate bill does not include any of the items our community wants.
From FIRM: Our demands remain the same: provide free COVID-19 testing and care for all; suspend practices and policies that further endanger immigrant communities, like ICE enforcement and the public charge rule; expand unemployment insurance and cash payments to all people, including immigrants who pay taxes using an ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number); and, automatically extend protection for DACA recipients and TPS holders to ensure people have stability and the ability to stay safe.
Instead, the Senate bill bails out corporations with few restrictions.
Unemployment Insurance and Cash Rebate
- UI eligibility – DACA and TPS holders are eligible if they have work authorization and meet all other requirements – so they need an SSN
- Cash rebate eligibility specific to the bill cuts out people without SSNs, including mixed-status families where some have an SSN and some do not – and only have an ITIN. There is a limited exception for military families, but otherwise, this cuts out millions of families.
Schumer and Mnunchin met behind closed doors at midnight yesterday and supposedly reached a deal. We expect Senate to vote tomorrow but Dems continue to face lots of pressure from the press to compromise. (Press is creating this narrative that Dems are turning a relief package into a political opportunity – and that Dems are the reason why Americans are not receiving checks.) Today’s policy strategy was more tweeting at MOCs to bring public attention to OUR narrative.
We encourage everyone tweet at your representatives and senators!
Hashtags to use are:
tl;dr: Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on the package; we need to uplift our narrative!