U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today issued the following statement after the Senate overwhelmingly approved bipartisan legislation that will provide immediate relief to the American people. Thune was a key negotiator throughout the development of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and supported two previous legislative packages that are already providing support to families, small businesses, and the nation’s medical community. The CARES Act now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.
“Challenging times require swift and bold action from the federal government,” said Thune. “That’s why I’m glad the Senate was able to rise above politics and act in a bipartisan way to provide much-needed relief to the American people. The CARES Act will put emergency cash into the hands of American families and workers who need it the most, and it will deliver relief to small businesses to help them and their workers weather this storm. It will take meaningful steps to help stabilize an uneasy economy, provide significant resources to support state unemployment programs, and most importantly, it will continue to deliver resources to the health care workers fighting to stop this pandemic. I hope the House acts on this critical piece of legislation as soon as possible.
“The American people have faced obstacles before, but they always rise to the occasion. That’s what we’re seeing today in communities in South Dakota and across the country. Heroes are among us – health care professionals, first responders, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, and pharmacy clerks. Americans are stepping up and providing for their communities in ways many of us never thought would be necessary. But then again, there’s nothing more American than rising to the occasion and supporting friends, neighbors, and communities in times of need.
“I unfortunately had to miss today’s votes – something I’ve rarely done during my time in Congress. I felt under the weather this morning and, out of an abundance of caution, thought it was the responsible decision to avoid contact with my colleagues on Capitol Hill. Rest assured, I’ve been in touch with the attending physician at the Capitol and with my doctor in Sioux Falls – both of whom advised that self-quarantine was not required. Again, out of an abundance of caution, and in accordance with the advice I’ve been giving South Dakotans, I decided that avoiding others was the best option.”
The CARES Act would:
- Provide direct cash payments of up to $1,200 for most individual taxpayers and $2,400 for most married couples who file jointly. Those amounts would increase by $500 for every eligible child;
- Support states’ unemployment programs by providing an additional $600 per week, per person in unemployment compensation benefits and an additional 13 weeks of eligibility;
- Waive the 10-percent early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts for coronavirus-related purposes;
- Delay payments for employer-side payroll taxes;
- Provide support to businesses and industries that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak – through no fault of their own – to help ensure workers have jobs to return to after this crisis subsides;
- Offer forgivable loans to small businesses that retain their employees throughout this crisis;
- Temporarily enact provisions of the bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act, introduced by Thune and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), which would allow employers to contribute up to $5,250 tax-free to help pay down their employees’ student loans;
- Provide $117 billion to our nation’s health care community, including veterans’ health, to support doctors, hospitals and other health care professionals who are on the front lines of this battle, as well as temporary relief from the Medicare sequester, temporary expansion of a Medicare-accelerated payment program to help rural hospitals, and increased Medicare reimbursement for coronavirus care;
- Increase access to needed health care services via telehealth for community health centers, rural health clinics, home health, hospice, and home dialysis throughout the duration of the coronavirus emergency;
- Advance the principles of value-based insurance design by allowing pre-deductible coverage of telehealth services for patients who have high-deductible health plans;
- Extend reimbursement relief for durable medical equipment providers, whose products patients rely on to transition from hospital to home, throughout the duration of the coronavirus emergency;
- Extend several expiring health care policies, such as funding for community health centers and the Special Diabetes Program through November 30, 2020; and
- Replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation and provide an additional $9.5 billion that will allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support farmers and ranchers, including livestock producers.
On March 19, 2020, Thune introduced a bill to extend the tax filing deadline from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, to provide greater clarity to taxpayers and allow those who need to travel to a secondary location to acquire documents or meet with an accountant to follow CDC’s ongoing guidelines with respect to the coronavirus outbreak. One day later, the Treasury Department approved Thune’s request administratively, a decision that dovetailed with the department’s previous announcement that it would extend the tax payment deadline for filers who owe the IRS for the 2019 tax year. Americans who would like to file early are still able to do so, and the IRS is processing returns so taxpayers can get their hard-earned money returned to them as soon as possible. Thune’s bill was included in the base text of the CARES Act, but was removed after the Treasury Department’s announcement.