Delivering Relief to Michigan and Confronting the Coronavirus Pandemic

As Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Gary’s first priority is protecting the health and safety of Michiganders. Long before Coronavirus began spreading in the United States, Gary pressed the Department of Homeland Security to provide details on the Administration’s plan to protect the American people during a potential outbreak. In a report released in December 2019, Gary raised the alarm about our nation’s overreliance on foreign manufacturers for key medications and supplies, and urged action to address vulnerabilities in the American medical supply chain – vulnerabilities that have been increasingly heightened because of the pandemic.

Gary called on the previous administration to fully fund pandemic preparedness and response efforts, reappoint a global health security expert to the National Security Council, and to reimburse states and localities for costs incurred while responding to the Coronavirus outbreak – all before the first confirmed case of community spread within the United States. 

During this pandemic, Gary has worked to support families, small businesses, health care providers, and local governments in Michigan – while continuing thorough and careful oversight of federal pandemic response efforts. 

Looking Out for Michigan Workers and Families

Gary most recently helped pass and enact the American Rescue Plan, a landmark relief package which includes robust funding to distribute direct stimulus checks, accelerate vaccine distribution, help schools reopen safely, extend unemployment benefits, support small businesses and help local and state governments carry out essential functions.  

Measures in the legislation that Gary supported or led to help hardworking Michiganders and their families emerge from this unprecedented crisis include:

  • Direct payments of $1,400 per adult and child to most Americans
  • $170 billion to help schools reopen safely under the guidance of public health officials
  • An additional $300 per week for all workers receiving unemployment benefits, through September 6, 2021
  • $25 billion for rental assistance, which is in addition to the $25 billion Peters helped secure in the latest round of relief enacted this past December;
  • $10 billion to support struggling homeowners facing a looming foreclosure crisis and $5 billion to support people experiencing homelessness; and
  • $400 million for Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Emergency Food and Shelter Program, which provides immediate assistance to people who need shelter, meals, rent or mortgage assistance

Gary also helped enact the bipartisan Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020which included a provision he spearheaded to significantly expand unemployment assistance, and another round of relief funding in December 2020 that included $600 direct stimulus checks to most Americans. Gary also supported the American Rescue Plan Act, which provides $1,400 stimulus checks per adult and child to most Americans. It also provided an additional $300 per week for all workers receiving unemployment benefits, through September 6, 2021. It also included provisions to extend the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, building on the aid that Gary secured in the CARES Act — with expanded coverage to self-employed workers, gig workers, and others in non-traditional employment.

Expanding Vaccination Distribution Efforts

We cannot fully emerge from this dark winter without effective, efficient vaccination distribution efforts. As Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, with oversight of FEMA, Senator Peters was instrumental in securing funding for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) as a part of the American Rescue Plan Act. The bill includes $50 billion for the DRF to support national vaccination efforts, including the operation of the vaccination site at Ford Field in Detroit.  This funding will additionally provide frontline medical professionals the personal protective equipment and testing supplies needed to slow and eventually eliminate the spread of COVID-19.

In addition to these latest efforts, Gary also introduced the Free COVID-19 Testing Act in March 2020, which was enacted as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, to make Coronavirus testing free. He also helped secure additional funding for testing, including $315 million for Michigan through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act that was enacted in April 2020. Furthermore, provisions based off bipartisan legislation Gary previously introduced to raise awareness around vaccines and increase vaccination rates were signed into law in December 2020.

Supporting Michigan Small Businesses

The Coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis have taken a devastating toll on countless small businesses in Michigan and across the country, which is why Gary has repeatedly taken aggressive action to support business owners and their employees during this difficult time. Most recently, Gary helped ensure that the American Rescue Plan Act included an additional $7 billion in support for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses to retain staff and adapt operations, as well as expanded PPP eligibility for nonprofits. Gary also worked to make sure that struggling independent live venues, movie theaters and cultural institutions that are already eligible to receive a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant under the Save Our Stages Act, which Peters cosponsored, can access a PPP loan. The Save Our Stages Act was signed into law as part of larger legislation.

Additionally, Gary helped enact $10 billion in federal funding for the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) to help small businesses grow and create jobs. SSBCI funds the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and other state-led lending programs that leverage private financing to help small businesses access the capital they need. Through the American Rescue Plan, the Treasury Department awarded Michigan more than $175 million in funding for small businesses as part of SSBCI. Gary previously championed the effort to reauthorize the program in the Senate and led the charge to create the program as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Gary was also a staunch supporter of the bipartisan PPP Flexibility Act, which unanimously passed the Senate, to provide greater flexibility for small businesses receiving PPP loans. Gary also helped enact relief legislation that passed in December 2020 which allowed certain businesses to apply for a second round of relief, and supported a measure that passed in March 2021 to extend the deadline to apply for these critical loans for an additional two months.

Standing Up for Michigan’s First Responders, Health Care Providers And Public Servants

Frontline health care professionals and dedicated first responders continue to serve their fellow citizens and communities during this unprecedented crisis. That is why Gary helped secure approximately $10  billion through the American Rescue Plan Act to help state and local governments in Michigan continue essential services and retain critical public servants such as teachers, public health professionals, police officers, firefighters and EMTs. Gary also helped make sure that an additional $300 million in funding was included in the package for firefighters and other emergency responders who are on the frontlines of pandemic response efforts. These critical resources will help ensure they have access to personal protective equipment, are able to be paid for sick leave and overtime, and fire departments have the support they need.

Gary has also fought to provide critical aid to our courageous health care providers. Early in the pandemic, Gary announced a three-step proposal to ensure a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment, medical supplies, and hospital beds during the Coronavirus pandemic. He also helped to secure $100 billion in federal funding for hospitals and other health providers as a part of Congress’s third Coronavirus package – helping to cover expenses for Coronavirus response efforts and recouping lost revenue. As part of the bipartisan Coronavirus package enacted in April 2020, Gary pushed for and helped secure an additional $75 billion in emergency funding for our health system, including for hospitals and personal protective equipment.

Gary has also worked to cut the red tape slowing the nation’s Coronavirus response, ensuring that hospitals and health care providers in Michigan and around the country can obtain the resources, supplies, gloves and masks needed to protect themselves and their patients from the Coronavirus.

Providing Oversight of Federal Coronavirus Response

With unprecedented levels of relief funding being distributed to entities across the country, Gary has taken numerous steps to ensure that Michiganders can see how their hard-earned tax dollars are being used to address this crisis. That is why he made sure that the American Rescue Plan included provisions to help bolster oversight, accountability, and transparency. Specifically, the legislation enacted $40 million for the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), which Gary created as part of the CARES Act, to help ensure that stimulus funds from pandemic relief bills are being used effectively and reaching the hardworking families, small businesses and communities that need them most. Gary also secured $77 million for the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ independent watchdog, to continue their oversight of the federal response to the pandemic.

Addressing Racial Disparities in Coronavirus Response Efforts 

The Coronavirus pandemic has shown how this public health crisis has disproportionately affected minority communities. While African Americans make up just 13.6% of Michigan’s population, they initially represented 40% of deaths from the virus. The disproportionate impact has placed an even brighter spotlight on the gap in resources that too many of our communities of color have had to confront during this crisis – and existed before the pandemic.

As Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, with oversight of FEMA, Gary will continue to monitor FEMA’s efforts to ensure that the funding they have received through the American Rescue Plan and other relief measures will help ensure the vaccine is widely available to every community as quickly and efficiently as possible, including in historically underserved communities. Additionally, Gary helped ensure that $1.5 billion of the federal funding enacted by the American Rescue Plan for the State Small Business Credit Initiative will be set-aside for minority-owned small businesses. As part of a COVID relief package enacted into law in April 2020, Gary successfully secured $60 billion in dedicated funding for small community-based lenders, including Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs). Of that funding, $30 billion was to specifically assist CDFIs, MDIs and other community-focused lenders.

Gary has also fought to draw attention to the issue of racial disparities in the Coronavirus response by introducing legislation requiring the Department of Health and Human Services and the Trump White House’s Coronavirus Task Force to collect and report racial and other demographic data about the testing, treatment, and outcomes of the pandemic. Gary also pressed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to be more transparent with their efforts to address existing racial and socioeconomic disparities and ensure vulnerable communities get the help they need – and later introduced a bill that would help FEMA do exactly that. In addition, Gary announced a proposal to establish a federal grant program to support nonprofit and local organizations that will provide resources and information to communities of color during public health emergencies like the Coronavirus pandemic.

Sounding the Alarm on Overreliance on China and Other Countries for Key Drugs & Supplies

Prior to the pandemic, Gary sounded the alarm about our overreliance on foreign countries for critical supplies. Our country’s pandemic response efforts have been hindered by shortages of critical drugs and medical supplies, such as personal protective equipment – highlighting the dangers of America’s reliance on foreign producers, including China and India, for these vital resources.

In May 2020, Gary introduced two bills to address medical supply chain issues. His Pharmaceutical Accountability, Responsibility and Transparency (PART) Act and the Help Onshore Manufacturing Efficiencies for Drugs and Devices Act (HOME) Act would harness the federal government’s power to track data on pharmaceutical manufacturing and incentivize the domestic manufacturing of critical drugs and medical supplies, such as PPE. These bills would help to address vulnerabilities in the medical supply chain by increasing visibility into our supply chains and expanding capacity for domestic advanced manufacturing of critical drugs and medical devices throughout the United States. Specifically, Gary’s PART Act, would expand reporting requirements for manufacturers and require quarterly disclosures to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on critical manufacturing data such as which medications– including active pharmaceutical ingredients – are produced domestically and abroad and in what amount. His HOME Act, would help reduce U.S. reliance on foreign sources for critical drugs and medical supplies by investing in American manufacturing capacity. The bill would establish a Center for Domestic Advanced Manufacturing of Critical Drugs and Devices charged with facilitating investments in advanced manufacturing capabilities for critical drugs and devices throughout the United States.