Written by Pete DeMola in The Daily Gazette on March 15, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Capital Region’s House delegation joined the majority in voting for the emergency relief package, which passed early-Saturday, 363-40.

Guaranteed sick pay, free testing and bolstered food programs for children and seniors are central to the package.

The legislation, which now heads to the Senate, also includes support for small businesses in the form of reimbursable tax credits.

“This legislation is one of many needed actions to respond to this pandemic,” said Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, in a statement. “The Senate and President must act swiftly — our communities cannot wait.”

Delgado said he will continue to urge a federal focus on increased access to testing, “available to all who need them, regardless of income.”

The legislation includes a provision authored by Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, to increase access to respirators for frontline healthcare workers.

“I urge the swift passage of this bill to provide the health coverage, food assistance and financial support Americans need to address this public health emergency,” Tonko said in a statement.

The package comes after a $8.3 billion federal emergency spending package was enacted last week, and hours after President Trump declared a national state of emergency.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, said her office pushed for “significant federal support” for free testing, resources for seniors and vulnerable populations and relief for small businesses.

Stefanik not only voted for the the bill, but also supports Trump’s emergency order, which frees up $50 billion in emergency funds for stateand local governments.

Small businesses are likely to take a financial hit as broad elements of society are temporarily shuttered, including public school closures and pro- and collegiate athletic leagues.

The U.S. Small Business Administration will offer low-interest federal disaster loans to small businesses incurring financial damage as a result of the pandemic, a measure Stefanik called “a step in the right direction.”

“I anticipate there will be an economic stimulus package for industries that are impacted,” Stefanik said in a phone interview on Friday.

Stefanik also praised the private sector pharmacies who will offer drive-thru testing and New York state’s push to bypass federal regulators and start contracting with 28 independent laboratories in the state to test patients.

Trump on Saturday said he took a coronavirus test. Multiple wire services were reporting Saturday night that White House physician Sean P. Conley announced that the president’s test came back negative.

Stefanik on Friday said she had not been tested.

“I have not,” Stefanik said. “I have no symptoms.”

The relief package comes as Democratic and Republican lawmakers are pressing Trump administration health officials on why the U.S. hasn’t been more rigorous with aggressive testing, reported the Washington Post.

Trump spent weeks downplaying the virus, dismissing it as “a hoax” at South Carolina rallylast month.

Stefanik declined to discuss if the federal government has reacted to the mounting pandemic with the proper urgency.

“I think we need to keep politics out of this,” Stefanik said. “This is a national crisis and time for bipartisan consensus and working as a team.”

The Senate is scheduled to resume on Monday.

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