MISSOULA — Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines this week said $4.5 million in CDC funding will help Montana slow the spread of coronavirus, though Tester criticized Senate leadership Tuesday for not doing more.
The CDC funding, part of a supplemental package, was signed into law several weeks ago to help states complete laboratory work and take other measures in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both Tester and Daines supported the funding measure.
“This critical funding helps protect Montanans and ensures that our communities have the resources necessary to handle the coronavirus outbreak,” Daines said. “I will continue working with my colleagues in the Senate and with the Trump administration to move forward bold actions to protect Montanans health and finances.”
On the Senate floor Tuesday, Tester said Senate leadership has hesitated for too long to address other issues associated with the virus, including food support for students and seniors, unemployment for laid-off workers, and help for small businesses pinched by the pandemic.
Schools across Montana are closed for at least two weeks and bars and restaurants in Missoula and other urban centers have been ordered to close. Other small businesses have seen traffic dwindle.
“Thousands of Montanans are concerned about what it means for their paycheck, seniors are worried about their health, and businesses are forced to make very tough choices,” Tester said. “Millions of Americans are waiting on us here in Washington D.C. to act and to act quickly.”
While the house passed a bipartisan relief bill to address some concerns last week, Tester blasted the Senate’s majority leader for sending members home as the virus ramped up. The Senate continued to debate the bill on Tuesday.
“This pandemic is already providing significant impacts to our economy – we know that all too well,” Tester said. “That’s why this bill addresses unexpected unemployment and helps small business cover paid sick leave for those who need it.”
The House bill would ensure workers can take paid sick or family leave. It would also increase unemployment insurance and guarantee that all Americans can get free diagnostic testing for the coronavirus.
The Senate version would also increase funding for meals for seniors and children now out of school.
“Missoula Aging Services, as one, is already preparing to use its allotment of millions of dollars in additional revenue for senior nutrition, for providing more meals to seniors who are following recommendations to stay home,” Tester said.
“Last Thursday, the majority leader sent us home – business as usual,” Tester said. “We should have stuck around and did the people’s work. This is not business as usual.”