News From Congressman Ben Cline
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Sixth District Perspectives
with Congressman Ben Cline

Coronavirus Update

     As the coronavirus dominates the news cycles, I want to take a moment to ensure that you have all the latest updates about the virus and information about how to protect yourself during this evolving situation.

     I recognize that there is a great deal of fear and confusion regarding this virus, and a pandemic such as this certainly warrants unease. Although coronaviruses are not new, they usually infect animals and rarely infect humans as this new strain, COVID-19, has.

     Since the outbreak, Congress and the federal government, in conjunction with state and local officials, have taken numerous steps to curb the virus from spreading to more of our Nation’s citizens.

    Last week, I voted for and Congress passed $8.3 billion in emergency coronavirus funding for our public health agencies, which the President subsequently signed into law. New funding of $7.8 billion will be used to address this public health crisis, while $500 million will be used to replenish reserve funds that have been depleted over the past several weeks.

     Additionally, this emergency funding invests over four billion dollars to make diagnostic kits more available. It allocates nearly one billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) exclusively for state and local response efforts. And it allows for billions in low-interest loans to small businesses, limiting the economic impact of the disease.

    Most recently, the House passed a second bill (H.R. 6201) in the early hours of Saturday morning. And while I supported last week’s $8.3 billion coronavirus funding bill, I could not vote for a 100+ page, multi-billion dollar piece of legislation given I only had 23 minutes to review it. As I said during my campaign, "never again should we have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”

     This week, the President also took several steps aimed at protecting the health and well-being of the American people. In an address to the nation he outlined immediate steps to mitigate the effect of the virus on American businesses and workers. The Administration is putting forth a $50 billion economic assistance package to support small businesses and workers harmed by the outbreak, as well as expanding loans to businesses, deferring tax payments for certain businesses and individuals negatively impacted, and calling on Congress to pass payroll tax relief.

     Following this, on Friday, the President declared a State of Emergency thus allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to exercise the authority under the National Emergencies Act to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements of the Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children's Health Insurance programs and of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule throughout the duration of the public health emergency declared in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

     Further, the U.S. Department of Labor issued guidance to the states outlining flexibilities in administering their unemployment insurance programs. The federal government will now allow states to issue such benefits when, "(1) An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work; (2) An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and (3) An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member." The guidance also makes clear that under federal law an employee is not required to quit in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19.

     To protect the health of Americans, the Administration is bringing together government and private industry in a collaborative process to expand testing capacity and access to pharmaceuticals, general-use face masks, therapeutics, and vaccines.

     So far, more than one million tests have been distributed nationwide, with another four million tests to be shipped by the end of the week. Testing is now available in every state lab in the country, and commercial labs are now deploying tests to localities, which will help generate a dramatic increase in availability.

     In an effort to better understand and fight COVID-19, I have included two resources that provide valuable information which you may find beneficial from the Virginia Department of Health and the CDC. While the CDC is working toward vaccines and cures, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and others from infection:

  • Get a flu shot, since those suffering from the flu are more susceptible to COVID-19
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

     As U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said, “Caution is appropriate, preparedness is appropriate, panic is not.” Rest assured, I will continue to monitor the situation in Virginia and around the country and will work with my colleagues to ensure the full, coordinated force of the federal government is behind our efforts to stop the spread of this disease.

     If you experience symptoms or have been to an area where coronavirus is spreading, contact your doctor immediately to determine if you need screening. 

Town Halls:

As I have often said, one of my greatest priorities as the Sixth District's Congressman is making myself accessible to those I represent. For this reason, I have made an effort to hold more than two dozen town halls throughout our region and plan to hold an additional three this coming week. While residents of each individual county will be given priority when it comes to asking questions, all are welcome to attend. For registration details, please follow the highlighted links below. 

Amherst County Town Hall
Monday, March 16, 2020
8:30am – 10:00am
Amherst-Monroe Ruritan Club
115 Bruner Road, Monroe, VA 24574

Buena Vista Town Hall
Monday, March 16, 2020
5:00pm – 6:30pm,
American Legion Floyd-Davidson Post 126
1953 Magnolia Ave., Buena Vista, VA 24416

Rockbridge County Town Hall
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
8:00am – 9:30am
VFW Post 1499
105 Memorial Lane, Lexington, VA 24450

Sixth District in Washington:

Rep. Cline meets with members of the American Legion from Virginia to discuss their 2020 priorities

Rep. Cline talks with students visiting D.C. from Liberty University’s Automobile Dealership Management Program.

Rep. Cline meets with Roanoke County members of Vietnam Veterans of America to discuss their 2020 policy agenda

Rep. Cline meets with constituents from Staunton advocating on behalf of the School Nutrition Association of Virginia  

 Rep. Cline meets with Pastors from Shenandoah Baptist Church in Verona, Grace Baptist Church in Woodstock, and Valley Baptist Church in Stuarts Draft. 

Rep. Cline meets with pro-life representatives of Liberty council in Lynchburg

Rep. Cline chats with Rockingham and Augusta County residents representing the VA Association of Towing & Recovery Operators

Rep. Cline meets with Front Royal resident, Darcy Driscoll, with the National Association of Postal Supervisors 

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.

For the latest updates from Washington, please follow my social media accounts: FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.