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Today, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) urged congressional leaders from both parties to prevent the expiration of federal coronavirus (COVID-19) aid programs by including extensions of key programs in the government funding deal that is needed by next week.

“December 26th, the day after Christmas, will mark the last unemployment benefits for more than 10 million Americans unless we act. The expiration of these unemployment programs created in the CARES Act for the self-employed, gig workers, and independent contractors and the extended benefits to support those who’ve been unemployed more than six months would be disastrous for workers, families, and our economy if we do not pass an extension,” wrote Rep. Axne. “Only five days later, on December 31st, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions eviction moratorium will expire, putting millions of families at risk of being kicked out of their homes. Putting people out on the street during both the worst COVID-19 outbreak and the middle of winter is dangerous and allowing it to happen to millions would be irresponsible.”

While Rep. Axne has been a vocal proponent of securing an additional COVID-19 relief package before the end of the year, she emphasizes in her letter sent to Republican and Democratic congressional leaders today that, at minimum, Congress should prevent programs that are currently helping Iowans from expiring on January 1st.

“I have repeatedly urged you and all my colleagues to come together on a bipartisan package of COVID-19 relief that can get people and small businesses the aid they need, and will do so again,” wrote Rep. Axne. “However, we have limited time before the end of the year, and, at a minimum, we should do everything we can to prevent existing support from fading. Accordingly, should you be unable to make progress on a larger COVID-19 package prior to passage of a Continuing Resolution or Omnibus, I ask that you extend these and other expiring programs in that bill.”

The programs due to expire that Rep. Axne cites in her letter include unemployment benefits for more than 10 million Americans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium, paid family leave, forbearance and payment deferrals for homeowners and student borrowers, the Employee Retention Tax Credit, and authorizations for telehealth usage.

In addition, Rep. Axne urges the inclusion of measures that would help Iowa’s hospitals deal with the increased financial burden of the ongoing health crisis – and prepare for the need to distribute a vaccine in the future.

In her letter, Rep. Axne also repeated her top priority for the final days of the 116th Congress: achieving a bipartisan compromise on a new COVID-19 relief package.

“The partisan gridlock has prevented us from getting this virus under control and providing relief to all Americans. We cannot allow this year to close without another COVID-19 relief package to support all those in need passed into law,” wrote Rep. Axne. “I am ready to work with anyone – Democrats and Republicans – to get this deal done.”

Rep. Axne has continued to push leaders in Washington to finalize a compromise agreement on COVID-19 aid.

Earlier this month, she urged President Trump and leaders of both chambers of Congress to finalize a deal before the end of the 116th Congress.

The full text of today’s letter from Rep. Axne can be found below:

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Schumer,

Across the country, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing dramatically, with hospitals in Iowa and many other areas operating at capacity. Over the last week, Iowa’s positivity rate is more than 40%. Meanwhile, not only has there not been a full COVID-19 relief package in more than 8 months, important COVID-19 assistance is set to expire on December 31st, which would leave our already struggling communities with even fewer resources to fight this global pandemic if they are not extended. We must come together, Republicans and Democrats, to pass much-needed relief and reauthorization now.

December 26th, the day after Christmas, will mark the last unemployment benefits for more than 10 million Americans unless we act. The expiration of these unemployment programs created in the CARES Act for the self-employed, gig workers, and independent contractors and the extended benefits to support those who’ve been unemployed more than six months would be disastrous for workers, families, and our economy if we do not pass an extension.

Only five days later, on December 31st, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions eviction moratorium will expire, putting millions of families at risk of being kicked out of their homes.

Putting people out on the street during both the worst COVID-19 outbreak and the middle of winter is dangerous and allowing it to happen to millions would be irresponsible. On the same date, protections against foreclosure for homeowners with federally backed mortgages will expire, and those borrowers will lose the ability to delay mortgage payments with loan forbearance. Also on December 31st, the more than 40 million Americans with a federal student loan will see important assistance disappear, as the deferment of loan payments expires. The Employee Retention Tax Credit which has encouraged businesses to keep workers on payroll even when operations are curtailed also expires at the end of the year.

Additionally, COVID-19 paid leave for sick or COVID-19-exposed employees will expire on the 31st, meaning that millions of Americans risk losing their job if they stay home when they are sick. We know that quarantining those who are ill is an effective measure to slow the spread of this virus, which is why we cannot allow this provision to expire. Not only is this a matter of public health and safety, but paid leave is providing an economic safety net to as many as 87 million Americans.

We risk removing all of this economic support at a time when economic indicators are weakening in many sectors. Iowa has seen new unemployment claims rise 6 weeks in a row, and workers are losing hours across the Midwest. Further, initial indications show that we are likely to see later this week that the recovery is slowing, and that the economy may even have lost jobs in November.

This only illustrates that our top priority must be to get COVID-19 under control. While the vaccine news recently has been very encouraging, much remains unknown about when and how vaccines will be broadly distributed. We must take the necessary steps to protect the lives of our seniors and those must vulnerable until we can get vaccines distributed to every American.

As a champion for rural health care and expanding telehealth services, I have been tirelessly fighting to ensure that telehealth services are widely available. Without a COVID-19 authorization that extends past the end of this year, reimbursements for telehealth for Medicare beneficiaries during this emergency period will expire. This will once again force Americans to choose between forgoing medical appointments or taking the added risk of an in-person visit. My bipartisan legislation on extending and protecting telehealth options shows that the House and Senate can, and must, come together on this issue to ensure telehealth support is extended.

Equally, rural and urban hospitals alike are struggling with the financial burden of COVID-19. We must provide direly needed funding to fight the pandemic to our hospitals and health centers, continue to support testing, and begin preparations for vaccine distribution. That is why we must pass legislation that includes eliminating cuts to the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital program as well as extending the Medicare sequester moratorium until the end of this public health crisis.

I have repeatedly urged you and all my colleagues to come together on a bipartisan package of COVID-19 relief that can get people and small businesses the aid they need, and will do so again. However, we have limited time before the end of the year, and, at a minimum, we should do everything we can to prevent existing support from fading. Accordingly, should you be unable to make progress on a larger COVID-19 package prior to passage of a Continuing Resolution or Omnibus, I ask that you extend these and other expiring programs in that bill.

The partisan gridlock has prevented us from getting this virus under control and providing relief to all Americans. We cannot allow this year to close without another COVID-19 relief package to support all those in need passed into law. I am ready to work with anyone – Democrats and Republicans – to get this deal done.

Sincerely,

Cindy Axne

Member of Congress

Author: Press Release