Blumenthal on the Senate Floor: We Need to Act Now on Emergency COVID-19 Funding

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) spoke on the Senate Floor tonight to call for immediate Senate action on legislation to provide relief to families and small businesses struggling in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic.

“The package that is available for us to vote would provide relief to those families and those businesses, to people who are anxious about the future of their lives and livelihoods, who have to make those hard decisions right now, tonight, about what they will do,” Blumenthal said.

“Time matters. Hours and days are profoundly significant when families have to make these decisions. We can delay, but it is to the ultimate profound damage of those lives, and we can make a difference if we act now.”

“The small business people who met with me this morning, the health directors in New London and other cities like Hartford, the hospital administrators in Hartford and Milford, the local officials, mayors around the state of Connecticut who met with me, and the small business people who were hosted today by the Metro Hartford Alliance said to me: we need action.”

The full video of Blumenthal’s remarks is available for download here.

The full text of Blumenthal remarks, as delivered, is available below.

I came here today from Connecticut where I have been to hospitals and local public health departments, small and large businesses, places where health care is provided, and where the backbone of our economy is done.

And I came here to vote. I came here to vote on a package passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives. And that overwhelming bipartisan spirit should be what animates us as we seek to save lives and livelihoods.

We are literally on the cusp of an existential crisis in this country that will transform the lives of almost every American of almost every age and background and religion and creed. And, yet, in the face of that crisis, we will have no vote tonight, and that is disgraceful. It is shameful.

In the course of traveling around Connecticut, I have visited hospitals in Milford and Hartford, in other places around the state, local health departments and local officials who have said to me that there still is inadequate testing because the federal government still has failed to fulfill its promise to provide that testing.

There are fears that the surge of health cases, as a result of coronavirus, will deplete the resources of hospitals and other health care facilities because there are insufficient numbers of ICU's and ventilators and still the federal government has failed to provide them.

There is fear and anxiety about the future of our economy when parents have to make a decision about whether to stay home now to take care of their children because they are out of school, or because their families have one person who is ill from this virus and they are all quarantined. Will they be able to pay their mortgages and put food on the table? Literally, living from paycheck to paycheck, they are tying to make decisions in real time right now.

And, likewise, I met this morning with small business owners and managers who are fearful they will literally become insolvent. They will go bankrupt they will go under because they have insufficient resources to weather this financial storm. They are receiving no revenue but they still have overheads and expenses. If they are restaurants, they are now in effect closed; if they are retail establishments, most people are staying home; if they are small businesses, the backbone of our economy in providing jobs, they are challenged, and they have to make real decisions in real time right now.

The package that is available for us to vote would provide relief to those families and those businesses, to people who are anxious about the future of their lives and livelihoods, who have to make those hard decisions right now, tonight, about what they will do.

It would provide paid sick leave and emergency medical and family leave, strengthen unemployment compensation as well as tax credits. And for our state, it would provide the kind of expanded Medicaid support, $440 million for Connecticut alone, hundreds of millions for other states around the country.

We need to embark on that program of massive support, and sweeping international cooperation, and unsparing truth telling to the American people about the dimensions of this crisis. No more magical thinking or happy talk. We are about to see numbers soar, and as Anthony Fauci said, we're about to see Americans hunker down, as they must do.

And in that period what we have before us in legislation will mean potentially life and death decisions. Time matters. Hours and days are profoundly significant when families have to make these decisions. We can delay, but it is to the ultimate profound damage of those lives, and we can make a difference if we act now.

We could have acted by unanimous consent over the weekend. I am sorry that the Senate went home and that there was no action, but we need to act now, if not tonight, tomorrow morning. It should have been this afternoon because the loss of time is a loss of opportunity that we cannot afford.

The small business people who met with me this morning, the health directors in New London and other cities like Hartford, the hospital administrators in Hartford and Milford, the local officials, mayors around the state of Connecticut who met with me, and the small business people who were hosted today by the Metro Hartford Alliance said to me: we need action.

We have an obligation to act. We cannot allow time to pass without action.

We owe it to the people of Connecticut and the American people that will there be action to meet that surge and challenge for the hospitals, to provide that assistance in grants, not just loans on this package, and then a next package.

There must be additional steps, and I support the initiative that I understand may be coming from Senator Schumer and others and join in that initiative for hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to meet this crisis on the health front as well as in the economic arena.

Truth telling for the American people means recognizing the extraordinary, unprecedented historic magnitude of the challenge before us. The scope and scale of potential suffering can be reduced. We owe it to the American people to act. There is no excuse for delay.

The failure to act is unconscionable and inconceivable given the magnitude of the challenge, but also given the resolute and resilient spirit that I have seen across Connecticut – whether it's with Americares donating to people who need it, supplies and other kinds of necessities, or the spirit of giving I've seen among faith leaders and public officials, the courage of police and firefighters and emergency responders and the dedication of health care providers, whether it's in hospitals or clinics like Charter Oak in Hartford.

Across Connecticut, everywhere that I have visited, I have seen that American spirit coming forth, the great, positive spirit of America, and the ingenuity. That was a word that one of the small business people this morning used with David Griggs and myself at the Hartford Metro Alliance. Ingenuity, of meeting this challenge.

Whether it’s in research for a new vaccine or in devising new ways to deliver the test or providing for more ventilators and intensive care units, that ingenuity is truly American and the dedication of those health care givers and first responders and small business people and local officials and others around the state and around the country ought to inspire us to do better and to take this vote and do our job.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.