Durbin: US Senate Will Vote On COVID-19 Relief Package This Week

Mar 16, 2020
Originally published on March 15, 2020 7:46 pm

Illinois' U.S. Senator, Dick Durbin, said the Senate will vote soon on the latest deal to address a nationwide outbreak of COVID-19.

Congress already approved a roughly $8 billion emergency funding package earlier this month. The latest measure is aimed at addressing the economic impacts of a virus that has so far infected several thousand Americans and resulted in nearly 70 deaths as of Sunday evening.

Durbin said the pandemic is creating disruptions for workers who can least afford it.

“What’s the answer to a person who says “Yeah, I’ve got a fever, but if I don’t get a paycheck, how am I gonna pay my rent? How am I gonna keep the lights on?" So what we’re trying to do is to establish standards for medical leave so that person can make the right health decision for themselves and their family and all of us," Durbin told reporters after he cast his ballot early for Illinois’ primary election.

The legislation was negotiated by the House and Trump administration. It’s also designed to strengthen unemployment protections and provide free COVID-19 testing for those who need it. Durbin says more federal legislation is in the works "in the coming weeks."

He called for the Senate’s Republican leadership to immediately pass the legislation using a procedure called “unanimous consent,” to avoid legislative delays and to avoid having the senators return to Washington.

As of Sunday evening, Illinois health officials had reported 93 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease in 13 counties statewide.

Durbin told reporters he agreed with the public containment decisions reached by Illinois' state and local officials, which have so far included limiting public gatherings, shuttering schools, and even closing restaurants and bars to the public for the next several weeks.

"We each have to use our own judgement," Durbin said.  "Understand that what’s at stake here is not just your personal health but the health of everyone around you. If you can keep healthy, and be safe about it, fewer people are going to be infected.”

Meanwhile, Illinois' senior U.S. Senator said he’s working with state and federal officials to reduce COVID-19-related screening delays for international passengers arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.

The influx came in the wake of President Trump's 30 day ban on travel between Europe and the US.

Thousands of Americans returning to the country this weekend waited an estimated four to six hours before they could leave O’Hare. Photos showed them packed shoulder-to-shoulder in the international terminal. The Chicago airport is one of only 13 hubs federal officials are using to screen international passengers.

Durbin said that situation should have been avoided. Now he says he’s gotten assurances from Vice President Mike Pence, who said the federal workforce is doubling so people can be more quickly screened for COVID-19.

“I question whether that was enough. We don’t know, but he said he’d watch it and if that didn’t take care of the problem, even more would be dedicated. So I’m hoping the O’Hare situation improves," Durbin said.

Governor J.B. Pritzker called the O’Hare delays unacceptable, while Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot pointed to a “lack of preparedness” as the cause.

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