WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds the Trump Administration and Congress for swiftly enacting vitally needed legislation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including ensuring broad access to Medicare mental health services via telehealth. Millions of older adults now practicing social distancing to avoid spread of the coronavirus will now be able to receive in-home teletherapy via video chat on their cell phone. NASW urges administration officials and lawmakers who are currently developing the next COVID-19 package, a massive $1 trillion economic stimulus bill, to continue to prioritize strengthening the social safety net.
President Trump on March 6 signed into law the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 (H.R. 6074), which provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding for vaccine and therapeutics development, state and local public health agencies and efforts, and loans to small businesses affected by this crisis. The law also calls for major expansions in the use of telehealth, which is crucial in ensuring that millions of individuals now practicing social distancing can receive health and mental health services while in their home and via commonly used video chat apps. The president on March 18 signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), a $104 billion bill that establishes a federal emergency paid sick leave program, increased unemployment benefits, and funding for several nutrition assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The administration and Congress are now developing the $1 trillion economic stimulus bill that could include $500 billion in payouts to individual Americans and more support for businesses impacted by the crisis. It is essential that this measure provide much-needed financial relief for low- and middle-income Americans who are already experiencing fallout from the pandemic. The package should also provide additional increases in unemployment insurance, child protection programs, paid leave and nutrition assistance programs, and deferred federal student loan payments. Relief for small businesses is also crucial. Any bailouts for the airline and other industries should include conditions such as maintaining payroll, enacting a $15 minimum wage and no executive bonuses and stock buybacks.
NASW will continue to monitor federal efforts to address this public health crisis and advocate for relief and supports to ensure the well-being of all.