A MESSAGE FROM SEN. WARNER ON CORONAVIRUS
Updated: March 28, 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has sickened hundreds of thousands of people around the world, including many cases here in Virginia. Since the outbreak began, my top priority has been to provide our nation and our Commonwealth with the tools we need to fight this pandemic and help workers and small businesses make it through these tough times.
Below you will find a complete list of my actions to date on the coronavirus, along with resources for workers and small businesses, the latest statistics on COVID-19 cases in Virginia, and guidance from public health officials.
We will get through this challenge, but it is important that we all work together to stop the spread of the virus and help our economy recover. That starts with the following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health officials on how to stay safe:
- Practice social distancing: stay home, telework whenever possible, and avoid groups of people and close contact with others;
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (click here for instructions);
- Cover your coughs and sneezes;
- Avoid touching your face;
- Regularly disinfect frequently-touched surfaces;
- And most importantly, stay home if you are feeling sick and call your doctor
For more information and the latest guidance, please visit the CDC coronavirus website (embedded below).
My office continues to be in regular contact with officials on the ground in Virginia, as well as with a number of Virginians who were traveling internationally and were unable to return home. So far, my office has successfully helped with the repatriation of more than 100 Virginians around the world in accordance with the State Department’s travel guidance, and we are working with over a hundred more to ensure their safe return home. My office also stands ready to assist with other coronavirus and non-coronavirus federal issues. If you or a loved one is currently experiencing an issue with a federal agency, please click here to contact my office.
In the Senate, I have been working around the clock pushing for a robust coronavirus response by the federal government that includes Virginia priorities. So far, the Senate has passed three major bipartisan coronavirus response bills designed to aid in the fight against the virus and help workers and small businesses:
- PHASE I: On March 6, the President signed a bipartisan $7.8 billion emergency funding bill that directed needed resources to federal, state and local agencies responding to coronavirus. This legislation immediately provided Virginia with $13.3 million in federal funding to help cover the costs of preparations for this public health emergency. It also included language based on my CONNECT for Health Act of 2019, which reduces restrictions on the use of telehealth for public health emergency response, as well as $500 million to facilitate its implementation.
- PHASE II: On March 18, the President signed a second bipartisan coronavirus response bill that focused on the immediate economic impact of the coronavirus. This legislation greatly expanded paid sick leave to many Americans, made it easier for workers who’ve lost their job or had their hours cut to apply for unemployment insurance, and guaranteed that coronavirus testing will be free. It also included significant emergency funding for Medicaid, nutrition assistance, state unemployment programs, and coronavirus testing at VA medical centers.
- PHASE III: On March 27, the President signed a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill intended to help workers who have lost jobs or paychecks due to the coronavirus, loans and grants to rescue small businesses, as well as hospitals and local governments facing financial strain because of the coronavirus. Specifically, the legislation provides emergency cash payments to Americans, a small business rescue plan, a “Marshall Plan” for America’s hospitals, and a significant expansion of unemployment insurance. You can learn more in the YouTube video below:
For days, I was in direct negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and my colleagues from both parties, working to include specific provisions that would help Virginia workers and local businesses, including:
- Disaster Unemployment Insurance: to increase the amount and duration of unemployment benefits and expand eligibility to include hourly workers, gig workers, independent contractors, the self-employed, and others who would have otherwise fallen through the cracks in our system.
- Foreclosure and eviction protections: to provide borrowers of federally backed mortgages with forbearance for up to 180 days on mortgage payments. Additionally, the bill includes a provision that would impose a moratorium on all foreclosures for at least 60 days.
- Small Business Paycheck Protection Program: to provide small businesses with loans of up to $10 million that forgive up to 8 weeks of payroll and other costs if the business retains its employees and their salaries.
- Employer Retention Tax Credit: to encourage companies to keep workers on the payroll so they can maintain their employer-sponsored healthcare and have a job to return to when the crisis is over.
- American Worker and Main Street Lending Facility: to provide low-interest loans to help small and medium-sized businesses keep workers on the payroll.
- Employer Participation in Student Loan Repayment: to encourage companies to assist in paying off their workers’ student loans, the legislation includes provisions from my bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act.
- And other provisions, including: protections for small business government contractors, cash advances and debt relief for small businesses, and eased restrictions on accessing emergency funds in your 401K.
In light of the significant size of this legislation, I also worked to ensure that the bill includes robust worker protections and transparency measures to make sure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely. This includes restrictions on stock buybacks and excessive executive compensation for companies receiving government assistance, as well as full, real-time reporting of government loans to companies, and an inspector general to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.
In the coming weeks, I plan to continue working on legislative solutions that will help our country overcome this epidemic and help our economy recover. If you would like to share your thoughts on the coronavirus or another issue that is important to you, I encourage you to send me an email using this form.
In addition to legislation, another important tool at a Senator’s disposal are official letters, sent to government agencies, private companies, fellow senators, and other entities. In the weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began, I have been closely tracking the actions of the Trump Administration and using these letters to urge federal, state, and local officials, as well as business leaders to respond appropriately to the threats posed by coronavirus.
You may be wondering: What good does a letter do? At a minimum, these letters allow Senators to outline our priorities on an issue, shape public debates, and drive press coverage of important issues that might not otherwise get attention. Often, they create political pressure that yields real, tangible results for the American people. Let me give you three examples:
- Lifting broadband restrictions: On March 12, I led 17 of my colleagues in sending a letter to the CEOs of eight major internet service providers (ISPs) calling on the companies to suspend broadband restrictions and fees that could limit Americans’ ability to work, study, and receive medical treatment from home while social distancing. Within days, AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, as well as a number of smaller ISPs had responded and announced that they would be waiving fees and data caps for their customers during the coronavirus outbreak.
- Gig Workers: On March 9, I called on the CEOs of the largest gig worker platform companies to provide flexibility and financial assistance to workers affected by the coronavirus. In the week since, several gig companies, including Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates have announced assistance for their drivers, and the Wall Street Journal reports that several gig platform companies are in talks to establish a joint fund to assist these workers.
- Loan Forbearance: On March 9, I led my colleagues on the Senate Banking Committee in sending a pair of letters to financial regulators and trade groups urging our nation’s financial sector to prepare for the likely impacts of the coronavirus and take steps to protect consumers who may suffer financially as a result of a coronavirus outbreak. Shortly thereafter, multiple bank regulatory agencies issued a joint statement calling on banks to provide relief to customers affected by coronavirus and pledging regulatory assistance for banks who do so.
Below you will find a full list of my efforts to ensure a strong response to the coronavirus outbreak:
Sen. Warner's Work on Coronavirus
*A NOTE ON CONSTITUENT COMMUNICATION*
Due to safety precautions being taken to decrease the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, delivery of all physical mail to my office may be significantly delayed.
If you are in need of individual assistance, please contact my office using this form. Please be sure to provide good contact information so my staff will be able to reach you.
If you have a general comment about a Coronavirus related topic, you can send me an email using this form.
You may be assured that messages received from the webforms are being monitored throughout the day.
If you are unable to complete a webform online please, contact my office by phone at (202) 224-2023.
For the latest information regarding the virus please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. For the latest on my work in the Senate on this evolving situation, please visit the Coronavirus Updates Page on my website.
For information and updates about the Coronavirus in Virginia, you may also contact the Virginia Department of Health at or by phone 1-877-ASK VDH3 (1-877-275-8343).