Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Harrison) announced Wednesday that Congress has agreed on an $8.3 billion spending package to halt the surging number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the United States.
The House passed the bill late Wednesday afternoon and all indications are the Senate will also approve the bill by the evening, said Lowey, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee. The legislation would immediately go to President Donald Trump to sign.
“I would expect that given the urgency, the president would sign it immediately and I’m sure he’s being briefed on it because we’ve been in touch with the president’s office and the vice president’s office, in particular, who is coordinating this,” Lowey said during a Wednesday afternoon conference call from Washington.
Should President Trump sign the bill, she said the money would start flowing “immediately.”
The funding would make available $2.2 billion in public health funding and prevention preparedness and response, including $950 million to state and local health agencies, Lowey said. Of that money, about $33 million is slated to go to New York State, she said.
Included in the funding is more than $3 billion that would pay for research and development of a vaccine, nearly $1 billion for healthcare preparedness for health care providers and health centers and $1.25 billion to address the coronavirus abroad to keep America safe, Lowey said.
The bill also replenishes money that was previously taken to fight health emergencies and allow senior citizens to have access to telemedicine.
In separate funding, $7 billion in low-interest loans would be made available to small businesses impacted by the health emergency, she said.
News of the appropriation comes shortly after the 10th and 11th deaths of Americans from the coronavirus, identified as COVID-19, were reported Wednesday. One of the victims was in California while the others have died from the virus in Washington state.
Closer to home, Lowey said that the condition of the 50-year-old New Rochelle man, the first case of COVID-19 in Westchester, was upgraded to stable from serious. He remains hospitalized in New York City.
Earlier in the day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the man’s 20-year-old son who commutes to Yeshiva University in the city, his daughter, who attends the Salanter Akiba Riverdale (SAR) Academy in the Bronx, and his wife all tested positive for the virus. A neighbor who drove the man to New York-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville where he was treated for four to five days also tested positive.
On Wednesday, Westchester County announced that all Bee-Line buses will be sanitized daily.
County officials ask the public that for general inquiries regarding COVID-19, residents should call 211, the hotline operated by the United Way of Westchester and Putnam.