Rob’s Rundown: Week of September 7 – September 11, 2020
Senator Portman returned to Washington this week to vote in favor of the targeted COVID-19 response legislation, which was ultimately blocked by Senate Democrats. After the failed vote, Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor highlighting the need for Republicans and Democrats to work together and focus on the areas of agreement between the two parties: increased testing, additional funding for schools and universities, and restarting the Payment Protection Program, which has saved countless small businesses.
On CNBC’s Squawk Box, Portman urged Senate Democrats to negotiate in good faith with Republicans to finalize additional coronavirus response legislation so that Americans do not continue to go without relief. He believes the shared policy goals in the targeted bill can serve as a good starting point for bipartisan negotiation and he will advocate for his additional priorities of more flexibility and additional for state and local funding, permanent access to telehealth, and funding for rural broadband development as so many telework, use telehealth, and attend school virtually.
On Tuesday, Portman highlighted the Akron Beacon Journal editorial board’s piece praising the Senator’s bipartisan efforts to make permanent the current temporary federal waivers that expanded coverage for telehealth.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Akron Beacon Journal Editorial Board Praises Portman’s Bipartisan Effort to Ensure Access to Telehealth Services
Today, the Akron Beacon Journal editorial board praised Senator Portman’s bipartisan efforts to make permanent the current temporary federal waivers that expanded coverage for telehealth. Social distancing guidelines have disrupted traditional services and necessitated the use of telehealth services to help individuals. While the temporary waivers provide a necessary reprieve for patients so that they may continue their treatments and counseling virtually, they are time-limited and will ultimately expire at the conclusion of the Public Health Emergency. That’s why Portman has introduced the bipartisan Telehealth Response for E-Prescribing Addiction Treatment Services (TREATS) Act to make permanent a number of temporary waivers for telehealth services and to bolster telehealth options. The bill will also allow Medicare to bill for audio-only, or telephone, telehealth visits if it’s not a patient’s first visit. In-person visits or telehealth visits with video components are important, because they can allow for more robust checkups and evaluations. The full editorial can be found here.
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Portman Joins Bipartisan Senate Letter Urging House Leadership to Quickly Pass Veterans Mental Health Legislation
Portman joined Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Jon Tester (D-MT) – chairman and ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) – and 32 of their Senate colleagues in calling on U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to quickly bring S.785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act to the floor for immediate passage. The Senate unanimously passed this legislation on August 5.
“The social isolation and increased anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated many of the issues our veterans face,” the senators wrote. “Our nation’s veterans and their families are waiting on Congress to take action to deliver these desperately needed resources. We must act now to provide this vital assistance to Americans who have sacrificed so much for our country and who deserve the best our nation has to offer. As such, we are seeking immediate passage of S. 785 when the U.S. House of Representatives reconvenes in September.”
Wednesday, September 10, 2020
On CNBC, Portman Urges Senate to Pass Targeted COVID-19 Relief Package Today
On CNBC’s Squawk Box, Portman discussed his support for the targeted COVID-19 relief package that will come up for a vote on the Senate floor later today. Portman supports the targeted legislation because it is focused on the areas of agreement between Republicans and Democrats: increased testing, additional funding for schools and universities, and restarting the Payment Protection Program, which has saved countless small businesses. Portman is hopeful that today’s vote will encourage Senate Democrats to negotiate in good faith on the next COVID-19 response package so that Americans impacted by the ongoing pandemic do not continue to go without relief.
Portman Announces $23.6 Million Federal Grant to Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments Project
Portman announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation will award the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Government Projects $23.6 million in funding as part of the Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) competitive grant program. This funding will help the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Government Projects in partnership with the City of Toledo and Toledo Metroparks develop a downtown Toledo multi-use trail on both sides of the Maumee River. Portman released the following statement applauding the announcement:
“This is great news for the City of Toledo and I want to thank Secretary Chao for her support to bring these improvements to the city’s downtown area. This grant will help the city create the Glass City Riverwalk, which would connect neighborhoods and businesses on both sides of the Maumee River,” said Portman. “This project will transform the downtown Toledo riverfront and as a result boost opportunities for job creation and economic growth.”
Portman Announces $12.7 Million in CARES Act HUD Grants to Help Fund the Housing Choice Voucher Program Across Ohio
Portman announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded cities across Ohio $12.7 million in Housing Choice Voucher Program Housing Assistance Payments Supplemental Funding provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which Portman supported. These special funds are to be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic among individuals and families who are homeless or receiving homeless assistance.
Today’s grants build on the nearly $30 million in HUD grants and $11.6 million that Ohio received in April to support public housing agencies across the state. In June HUD announced $26 Million in CARES Act funding for the Housing Choice Voucher Program. In addition, In August, HUD announced $6.6 million in CARES Act funding. Portman has long focused on ensuring Ohioans have affordable housing and is currently championing the bipartisan Evictions Crisis Act which will help to address the national housing crisis that is undermining the efforts of millions of Americans to rise into the middle class. The bipartisan legislation will shed light on the root causes of the eviction crisis, reduce preventable evictions, and limit the devastation to families when eviction is unavoidable. More than 75 national and Ohio based housing, civil rights, and homelessness groups have announced their strong support for the Eviction Crisis Act. Portman released the following statement:
“These HUD grants will help Housing Authorities across Ohio that are struggling to keep up with growing housing expenses during this ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” said Portman. “I’ve long believed we must address homelessness and increase the supply of housing so Ohioans can reach their God-given potential and I’m glad these grants will help public housing authorities assist individuals and families during this crisis. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure Ohioans have the resources they need during these uncertain times.”
Portman Announces More Than $320,000 in Federal Grants to Improve School Safety in Ohio
Portman announced that the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) has awarded more than $320,000 in federal funding for school safety through its School Violence Prevention Program. The City of Canfield received $73,552 and Sycamore Community Schools in Hamilton County received $247,575. These funds will work to improve security at schools and on school grounds through evidence-based school safety programs. These funds also will be used for coordination with law enforcement; training for local law enforcement officers to prevent student violence; metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other deterrent measures; technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency; and other measures that provide a significant improvement in security.
“This is good news for Ohio and for the safety of our schools and our students. This grant will help these schools ensure have the resources they need to improve safety measures for students and faculty,” said Portman. “Our students are our future and I will continue to work at the federal level to ensure we protect them in Ohio and across our country.”
On Senate Floor, Portman Stresses Need for Swift Bipartisan Action to Respond to COVID-19 Crisis
On the Senate floor, after Senate Democrats voted to block targeted COVID response legislation, Portman highlighted the need for Republicans and Democrats to work together and focus on the areas of agreement between the two parties: increased testing, additional funding for schools and universities, and restarting the Payment Protection Program, which has saved countless small businesses.
Portman urged Senate Democrats insisting on passing the partisan, $3.5 trillion HEROES Act to instead work together and negotiate in good faith with Republicans to finalize additional coronavirus response so that Americans do not continue to go without relief. He believes the shared policy goals in the targeted bill can serve as a good starting point for bipartisan negotiation and he will advocate for his additional priorities of more flexibility and additional for state and local funding, permanently access to telehealth, and funding for rural broadband development as so many telework, use telehealth, and attend school virtually.
Friday, September 11, 2020
Portman Announces Federal Aviation Administration CARES Act Grants to Assist Williams County Regional Airport Impacted By COVID-19
Portman announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded a $294,454 federal grant to Williams County Regional Airport to help provide economic relief for lost revenue due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This announcement builds on the nearly $123 million in federal grants that Ohio airports that have received.
These grants come from funds accessible thanks to the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Portman supported and was signed into law by President Trump. Portman released the following statement:
“A functioning and effective aviation industry is critical to our U.S. economy. During this ongoing coronavirus pandemic, travel has significantly changed, thus leaving the aviation industry in a tough economic position,” said Portman. “I’m pleased to see that Williams County Regional Airport has received this grant thanks to the CARES Act. The CARES Act funding is helping airports like Williams County’s continue to serve Ohio, and beyond this assistance, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure Ohioans have the resources they need during these uncertain times.”
Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran recently declared, “Expanding telehealth is the silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic.” We’re inclined to agree.
Allowing more health care visits, especially for mental health issues, to take place via telephone, videoconference or other remote technologies is an important way to expand access. While the practice could be subject to abuse, with practitioners simply jamming in more visits to boost revenue, the past five months have shown that many virtual visits can be just as effective, and far easier for patients to manage, as in-person ones.
We support the Department of Medicaid’s proposed rule to expand and make permanent the emergency rule that has allowed Medicaid dollars to pay for more telehealth visits while pandemic restrictions are in place.
In another sign that greater use of telehealth is the wave of the future, Sen. Rob Portman is supporting legislation that would make permanent some temporary federal waivers allowing it.
If Congress ever manages to pass another coronavirus relief bill, it should include Portman’s provision.
For mental health care especially, the added option of seeing a provider from the comfort and safety of home can be invaluable.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman talked with Your Hometown Stations on Thursday to provide an update on stimulus bill talks.
On Thursday, the bill failed to secure the 60 votes needed in order to pass. The final votes came to 52-47.
The bill would not only provide relief to citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also provide aid to schools, hospitals, and small businesses.
"It also has money for more testing," explained Portman. "Contact tracing, including speeding up the vaccine and antiviral medication. So it's a good bill, its a targeted bill."
Portman says that he hopes that both parties will return to the negotiating table sooner rather than later.
"Although it didn't pass with 60 votes today, it did pass with a majority of senators," said Portman. "So my hope is that this will be able to help us get back to the negotiating table... it will 'unlock the gridlock' that has been happening the last several weeks."
Portman also stated that the bill contains flexibility in terms of how the money will be distributed to different categories, including aiding smaller cities that have been hit hard by the pandemic.
"A lot of our cities, like Lima, had a big loss in revenue because of COVID-19," said Portman. "I like the flexibility, I think we should provide it. Fire, Police, EMS is one of my concerns... a lot of those departments had to be cut pretty severely... that's usually the biggest budget of a city."