Trump Signs $8.3 Billion Bill to Fight Coronavirus; Rep. Courtney and Local Health Leaders Discuss Funding

Rep. Joe Courtney said most of the $8.3 billion in funding will be directed towards research.

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The people on the front lines of public health in South Eastern Connecticut sat around a table with Rep. Joe Courtney Friday, discussing how new federal funding might help fight the coronavirus in Connecticut.

"This is specifically to address any hardship that this potential epidemic could cause," said Courtney.

The Senate passed the new legislation in a 96-1 vote a day after the House passed it in a 415-2 vote. The $8.3 billion funding package will address several aspects of COVID-19.

According to Courtney, more than $3 billion will be directed towards research and development of vaccines. Another chunk of funding, $2.2 billion, will fund prevention, preparedness and response.

"We need to have the infrastructure in place so people can be adequately screened and tested," said Courtney.

Courtney told the public health leaders gathered at Backus Hospital that each state is guaranteed at least $4 million. How the virus may progress will dictate how the funding is used.

"These resources are going to move out fast, as they should," said Courtney. "Devices, test kits, what we need right now to make sure there is good information and adequate resources for people to go to."

The bill also opens the door for an estimated $7 billion in low interest loans to help affected small businesses.

Mei Hee, owner of S&A Market, said that having access to low interest loans would ease her concerns. She told NBC Connecticut that she has not yet seen COVID-19 affect her business.

"The fees, the rental fees," said Hee. "I am worried."

Courtney said lawmakers will still work to explore additional ways to help small businesses. He also said that they still need to address any potential co-pay that private insurance companies may require for coronavirus testing.

"We don't want barriers for people to get tested if they think they need it," said Courtney. "There is still more meat on that bone. We have other issues that we still need to dig into."

Senior Vice President of Hartford Healthcare Donna Handley hosted the round table alongside Courtney. Hartford Healthcare announced today that they are opening a hotline for anyone with questions or concerns regarding the coronavirus.

"We are prepared and ready because it is a matter of when," said Handley.

Health leaders added that the most important thing to do now is to try and slow the spread of the virus.

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