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Manchin, Capito comment on second COVID-19 aid package, testing supplies, Fairmont hospital

MORGANTOWN — The U.S. Senate voted 90-8 on Wednesday to pass the House’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a second round of funding for national relief. And it’s working on a third round.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., talked about the coronavirus response in a press conference call and a follow-up release; and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., issued some comments in press releases.

They also talked about the lack of COVID-19 testing materials available to the state.

House Republican Financial Services staff explained that The Families First Act is for long term funding. It is focused on providing paid sick leave, free coronavirus testing, expanding food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requiring employers to provide additional protections for health care workers.

Capito said, “There’s a lot of uncertainty now and in the coming weeks and months about how COVID-19 will affect not only the overall health of our country but also the economic prosperity of small businesses and the thousands of individuals working for them. Today’s vote is another reassurance that the federal government will continue to respond to these concerns.

“Moving ahead, we need to make sure we focus our efforts on providing the resources necessary to support our economy through this time by putting more money back in the pockets of hardworking West Virginians and Americans that have been impacted during this time,” she said.

Phase 3, she said, is expected to include more money for sick leave, more money for testing and unemployment relief. There’s discussion of money to individuals – with the figures of $1,000 or $2,000 or two full weeks of pay to some individuals floating, And SBA small business loans. The details are being negotiated.

“I think anything helps,” Capito said of the checks to individuals. $1,000 is not enough to live on if wages are lost, but it would put money into people’s hands for their needs. “This is an evolving situation” and ideas will need to be retooled as the health crisis unfolds.

Manchin said, “While I am frustrated it took us several days to finally pass this emergency funding, I am relieved we did so. This is just the beginning of what America’s workers and families are going to need to survive this unprecedented virus.

“There are good things in this package,” he said, “but it is not enough. I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to quickly draft and pass an additional relief package to provide additional financial security to families across our country who are uncertain what the future holds for them right now. I encourage my colleagues to put partisan politics aside and get back to work immediately.”

But Manchin expressed skepticism about the government paychecks.

“The government’s main focus right now must be two-fold: investing in medical research to quickly end this pandemic and supporting the average American worker and small business owners who are being financially impacted during this time,” he said. “We can support American workers by removing the waiting period for those applying for unemployment, raising the dollar amount and creating a small business stimulus. But we do not need to be in the business of sending $1,000 checks to individuals like myself who are continuing to get a paycheck and not seeing negative financial impacts.

Test supplies and Fairmont

On the subject of the lack of coronavirus testing supplies in the state, Capito said she’s talked with the White House, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Service and more about getting supplies to the state.

Meanwhile, she said, hospitals are ramping up their own testing and things should pick up by the end of the week.

ON a separate but related topic, Gov. Jim Justice said in a separate press conference that he is still working on the idea of turning Fairmont Regional Medical Center and a couple closed hospitals into backup coronavirus treatment facilities should the state’s active hospitals get overwhelmed.

Manchin commented on FRMC’s situation on Wednesday: “I am imploring our state government and medical officials to keep medical centers like FRMC open during the outbreak. These facilities are going to be essential to helping provide the necessary healthcare to everyone affected by this deadly virus. … Right now we have a situation where we may not have enough capacity in our medical facilities to care for people when they become sick. We must keep FRMC and other medical facilities open and I will do everything possible to make that happen.”

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