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Takano and Schiff on passage of federal bill to replenish small business loan program

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Photo Credit: Picture of Money via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

The US House of Representatives voted 388 to 5 on Thursday for another half-trillion dollars in federal relief, including $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program that offers forgivable loans to small business employers to keep workers on their payrolls  during the economic crisis COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. There have been more than 26 million unemployment claims filed in the past five weeks alone.

From the Los Angeles Times:

“With the latest bill, Congress will have approved more than $2.5 trillion to assist Americans, shuttered businesses, hospitals, vaccine researchers and others fighting the pandemic. And discussions are already underway about what more needs to be done. The House and Senate are currently scheduled to return May 4.

Thursday’s bill included $75 billion in emergency funding for hospitals and $25 billion to increase testing and contact tracing. It also requires the Trump administration to create a national testing plan, a move medical experts insist will be necessary before state governments can allow businesses to resume activity. It orders states and the federal government to collect demographic data on those who have fallen ill.”

Out Rep. Mark Takano from Riverside County, tweeted video of his comments on the House floor:

He issued this statement following the passage of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act:

 “I flew to Washington to cast my vote for this emergency coronavirus relief package because small businesses are in desperate need of support to stay afloat amid this pandemic. I have heard from small business owners in Riverside County who are struggling and who were unable to receive any help after funds allocated for the Paycheck Protection Program ran dry. I have heard from small business owners who applied to access these funds to no avail, and then we learned that big banks prioritized their wealthy and well-connected corporate clients instead of the true small businesses that need our help right now.

“This emergency relief package includes $310 billion in funding to strengthen the Paycheck Protection Program to give more small businesses the ability to apply for these loans. We must hold the big banks accountable for disbursing these loans in a fair and inclusive way. House Democrats are working to ensure that true small businesses – not large, multi-million-dollar corporations – can have access to these funds. This is one of the ways in which Democrats drastically improved this legislation to help the American people.

“In addition to support for small businesses, this relief package includes $75 billion to help hospitals and to ensure that healthcare workers can get the resources they need, including personal protective equipment. We must lookout for the people on the frontlines of this pandemic who are working day in and day out to save lives.

“During these times of uncertainty, the key to reopening our states and our economy will require an effective national testing strategy. This legislation also provides $25 billion in funding for testing, which will be necessary for all Americans to be able to resume our lives. In the meantime, Congress will continue working on a second CARES package to help workers and families make it through this crisis.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, whose district spans from Burbank to West Hollywood, tweeted:

Schiff issued this statement:

I  just walked off the House Floor to cast the first two votes I’ve taken in more than a month. Both were important, and I wanted to tell you a bit more about what we voted on, and what’s coming next:

First, we voted to create a House Select Committee dedicated to overseeing the trillions in relief spending Congress has authorized to respond to the pandemic and the associated economic crash. The Committee will have its hands full, but it will be an important additional check to prevent waste or abuse, and to make sure that relief is going where it should, fairly and without regard to political considerations.

Already, serious questions are being raised about whether the funding allocated for PPE is getting to the hospitals and states most in need, or those whose governors are most willing to flatter the President. And press reports indicate that many large, well-connected businesses were moved to the front of the line by big banks for funding that was intended for small businesses, and the workers they employ. This select committee will get to the bottom of it.

Second, I voted to support an additional $480 billion in relief spending to supplement the two trillion that we passed in March in the CARES Act. As large as the CARES Act was, it wasn’t even close to enough, and that’s why we had to come back so soon to do more. With more than 45,000 deaths from the virus already, as well over 20 million unemployment claims filed, this crisis is devastating families all across the nation, and there’s still no end in sight.

As we have throughout this process, House Democrats have demanded a bill that focuses on Americans and small businesses, as well as putting in place what we need to control this virus. So over the objections of Mitch McConnell, we secured some important wins for the American people in this bill, including another $360 billion in emergency assistance for small businesses, with specific carve outs to make sure it gets to those who really need it. We obtained another $75 billion for hospitals and community health centers that are on the frontlines responding to this virus.

And we demanded and got $25 billion for a true national testing strategy, something that every expert agrees we must have to reopen the economy safely, but that the Administration has STILL failed to deliver.

But let’s be clear, we are going to need to do more. A lot more. In fact, I think we need to go big and embrace a payroll guarantee for all businesses, an approach used in Europe, and one that is swift, equitable and avoids layoffs across the board. By having the government guarantee 80% of a company’s payroll, large or small, Americans will get to keep their pay and their benefits, and position us better to make a strong economic comeback. It’s better for workers and the economy and is a solution as big as the problem itself. I’m cosponsoring a bill to put that system in place.

Here are some of my other key priorities for the next relief package, which we’re already working on:

  • Funding for state, tribal and local governments: States and cities are bearing the brunt of responding to this crisis, and they can’t go on without federal support. With tax revenues crashing and so many people in desperate need of help, getting money to states and cities across the country is just commonsense. If Mitch McConnell wants to let Kentucky go bankrupt, his voters should keep that in mind. But the states and cities employ police, firefighters, healthcare workers, teachers and more — they all need our support right now.
  • Protecting our democracy through vote-by-mail: Making sure every eligible voter can cast a safe and secure ballot by mail, and making it easy to do so, has to be a top priority. In Wisconsin, where Republicans fought against delaying the election and forced voters to crowd into polling places, we’ve already seen infections as a result. All states should allow no-excuse vote-by-mail and a fifteen day early voting period to ensure all voters are able to make their voices heard during this crisis. No one should be forced to choose their health or their vote.
  • Hazard pay for frontline workers: Every day, millions of Americans are still going to work, some in hospitals, others in grocery stores, or pharmacies, or as truckers, or much more. They deserve our thanks, but they also deserve to see their work and sacrifices recognized and rewarded in their paychecks.
  • Health care for those who have lost their jobs or those who never had good access, food insecurity, additional aid for small businesses, saving the post office, and assistance for the homeless are other key issues that must be addressed in the next bill.

If you’re with me, and believe that we must “go big” on the next relief bill, add your name to call on Congress to pass additional emergency legislation to help guarantee payroll, support workers and local governments, give hazard pay to those on the front line, and protect our democracy.  CLICK HERE

I continue to believe we’ll get through this, but it’s so vital that we listen to the experts, follow guidelines to stay safe and healthy, and help the most vulnerable among us. Thank you for doing your part.

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Coronavirus

CDC: 85% of gay & lesbian adults in U.S. are vaccinated against COVID

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBTQ persons limited because of the lack of routine SOGI data collection at the national & state levels

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Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/GSA

ATLANTA – A new study report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), found that found 85.4% of gay and lesbian Americans above age 18 had received at least one vaccine dose as of October 2021.

The study, conducted from August 29 until October 30, 2021, also found that by comparison, only 76.3% of heterosexuals reported receiving at least an initial dose by the same date.

The report noted that Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations have higher prevalence of health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness compared with non-LGBT populations.

The potential for low vaccine confidence and coverage among LGBT populations is of concern because these persons historically experience challenges accessing, trusting, and receiving health care services

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBT persons are limited, in part because of the lack of routine data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity at the national and state levels.

In March of 2021, the Blade reported the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed deep-seated inequities in health care for communities of color and amplifies social and economic factors that have contributed to those communities being hit hardest, and Mega-vaccination centers set up by California health officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been addressing and tracking the issue- the LGBTQ communities are still not being tracked.

This lack of data collection has frustrated and angered California State Senator Scott Wiener who authored a bill last year that passed through the legislature and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last Fall that mandates gathering sexual orientation and gender identity data related to the COVID testing in California.

“We’re one year into the pandemic, and LGBTQ people continue to be erased in our public health response to COVID-19 — similar to our invisibility throughout history. No government is successfully tracking COVID-19 cases in the LGBTQ community, despite a law I wrote mandating that California do so,” Weiner told the Blade. “And, we now know that LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve also just learned that vaccination demographic data doesn’t include LGBTQ data. It simply shocking that in 2021, progressive health agencies continue to forget about our community,” he added.

The CDC also noted that gay and lesbian adults were more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 and to believe in the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

“We know that the prevalence of certain health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness, such as cancer, smoking, and obesity, are higher in LGBT populations, and access to health care continues to be an issue for some people in the LGBT community,” Dr. A.D. McNaghten, a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Team and corresponding author of the study, told ABC News. “We wanted to see if vaccination coverage among LGBT persons was the same as non-LGBT persons.”

The CDC data recorded that bisexual and transgender adults had similar vaccination rates to heterosexual adults with 72.6% of bisexual adults fully vaccinated by the end of October, as were 71.4% of transgender adults. The numbers however for Black and Hispanic lesbian women had lower rates of vaccination at 57.9% and 72.6%, respectively, compared to Black and Hispanic heterosexual women at 75.6% and 80.5%, respectively.

Higher percentages of gay or lesbian adults and bisexual adults reported that they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (90.8% and 86.8%, respectively) compared with heterosexual adults (80.4%), and higher percentages of adults who identified as transgender or nonbinary reported they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (83.2%) compared with those who did not identify as transgender or nonbinary (80.7%).

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Coronavirus

White House orders distribution of 400 million free N95 masks

Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator; “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks”

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President Joe Biden (Blade file photo/screenshot)

WASHINGTON – As the latest surge of the highly contagious and easily transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to cause a rise in hospitalizations, especially among unvaccinated adults and children, the White House announced Wednesday it is making 400 million N95 masks available for free at thousands of locations across the nation.

The plan an admkistartion official said, is to start shipping the nonsurgical masks to pharmacies and community health centers to distribute this week, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile.

In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator, said, “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks.”

The N95 masks will be made available to everybody, and recipients will not be prioritized based on vulnerability to Covid, income or other criteria. Inglesby said the administration was “confident that people who want to access them will be able to access them,” but it was not immediately clear how many masks a person could receive at one time.

On January 13, President Joe Biden had announced a plan to have the government distribute 1 billion rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests free to Americans, along with the N95 masks, as the administration works to fight the spiraling upward spike in coronavirus cases.

The White House website to order free at-home Covid tests went live Tuesday. The website says: “Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.”

A White House official said Wednesday that the distribution of 400 million masks would be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.

Inglesby told NBC News that the administration was “absolutely preparing for the possibility of additional variants in the future” and that people could expect the government to make N95 masks “more and more available.”

Biden announces free masks, tests to fight omicron:

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Coronavirus

COVID-19 Cases increase by nearly 10 times in one month

While hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID

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Graphic courtesy of UCLA/Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

LOS ANGELES – A total of 31,576 new COVID-19 cases were documented on Monday — up ten times the number of cases reported on Dec. 17, 2021, when there were 3,360 new cases recorded the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported Monday.

There are  4,564 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, nearly 6 times the number from one month ago when 772 people were hospitalized. The daily positivity rate is 16.5%, more than 8 times the 2% daily positivity rate on December 17th.

Just one week ago, the county surpassed 2 million total COVID-19 cases, with the figure reaching 2,289,045 cases as of Monday.

“On this national holiday where we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, we remember his deep commitment to health equity.  As Reverend King memorably said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death,’ ” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“Tragically, we have seen this play out in real life and very clearly over the past two years with the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color. From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation,” she added.

“The good news is that while hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID but, are identified with COVID when tested for COVID upon hospital admission,” the health department said in a statement released last week.

As of Friday, more than 80% of all adult ICU beds in the county were occupied.

There are also 27 new deaths due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and 31,576 new positive cases.

The public health department also noted that while the number of children hospitalized with the virus remains low, the number of them admitted to L.A. County hospitals “significantly increased” over the past month, with the largest increase among children younger than 5 years old.

The increase mirrors trends seen nationwide for the age group — the only one not yet eligible for the vaccine.

The county also saw its highest coronavirus death rate in nearly 10 months over this past week, with an average of 40 COVID-19 deaths a day.

“From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation. As we continue to implement strategies – enforcing worker protections through our Health Officer Orders, providing resources needed by many to survive the impact of the pandemic, funding community-based organizations in hard hit areas to serve as trusted public health messengers, and increasing vaccination access in under-sourced neighborhoods – we also need to come together to address the impact that racism, historical disinvestment, and social marginalization have on COVID-19 outcomes,” Ferrer said.

“While these conditions predate the pandemic, without deliberate collective actions to address the root causes of health inequities, we are unlikely to close the gaps we have documented for 2 long years,” she added.

California has recorded more than 7 million coronavirus cases after its fastest accumulation of reported infections in the history of the pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The unprecedented count, recorded in California’s databases late Monday, comes one week after the state tallied its 6 millionth coronavirus case.

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