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John Rutherford: Expand FEMA Disaster Unemployment Assistance to Americans Impacted by Coronavirus

A congressman from the First Coast is championing a proposal to offer disaster unemployment assistance to Americans unable to work due to coronavirus.

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A congressman from the First Coast is championing a proposal to offer disaster unemployment assistance to Americans unable to work due to coronavirus.

This week, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., threw his support behind U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer’s, D-Wash., “Coronavirus Worker Relief Act.” U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., is also backing the bill.

Rutherford’s office noted the bill “would provide disaster unemployment assistance to people who are unable to work due to the current coronavirus outbreak following an emergency declaration by the president” and “assistance would be available to individuals, including self-employed individuals and independent contractors, who are sick, quarantined, furloughed, or whose family circumstances keep them from working or reduce their pay as a result of the coronavirus outbreak or government containment efforts.”

The bill would expand Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program to include Americans impacted by coronavirus including those who are “self-employed individuals and independent contractors, who are sick, quarantined, furloughed, laid off, or whose individual or family circumstances have changed as a result of COVID-19 or government containment efforts.” The bill would also waive state waiting periods and work search requirements and ensure federal support for the states administering the benefits.

“We cannot force workers to choose between paying their bills and following proper CDC public health protocols,” said Rutherford. “It is critical to prioritize the safety and well-being of our communities with proactive, preventative measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. With today’s legislation, folks in Northeast Florida and throughout the country would have peace of mind knowing a financial safety net exists if they miss work due to quarantine or other coronavirus-related precautions.”

“In Washington and across the country, we’re already seeing an impact on the financial well-being of individuals and families, local employers, and the entire economy,” said Kilmer. “By introducing the bipartisan, bicameral Coronavirus Worker Relief Act, we’re taking action to help workers who could face unexpected challenges and economic hardship due to COVID-19 and related containment efforts. At a time like this, providing income security to those who need it most is vitally important.”

“As more cases of the novel coronavirus are confirmed in Washington state, the Southwest Washington citizens I represent are already feeling the impact,” said Herrera Beutler. “This is why it’s imperative we have emergency resources to lessen the negative effects of those whose jobs and way of life are being directly impacted by the outbreak. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan, bicameral bill to offer emergency unemployment assistance to individuals directly impacted by the novel coronavirus.”

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hi., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Brian Schatz, D-Hi., and Todd Young, R-Ind., are backing the companion measure in the U.S. Senate.

“It is vital to public health that people who feel sick are able to stay home without fear of losing their job or going broke,” said Schatz. “Helping people who can’t work because of a public health emergency is just the right thing to do.”

“If workers are ill, or caring for sick loved ones, they should have the ability to take time off from work without the threat of financial harm. This is what our bipartisan legislation aims to accomplish by providing disaster unemployment assistance for individuals impacted by coronavirus,” said Young. “During this time of uncertainty, we must find solutions to ensure that individuals can comply with public health guidance without facing economic hardship.”

“Our country is facing a serious health crisis, and Utahns shouldn’t have to choose between a paycheck and protecting their own health,” said Romney. “By providing assistance for those unable to work due to the coronavirus, our legislation will ease the financial uncertainty that families in Utah and across the country may face during this time.”

“No worker should have to choose between putting themselves at risk of contracting coronavirus and being to pay their bills and support their families,” said Hirono. “We need to do everything we can to get money in workers’ pockets as quickly as possible. This bipartisan legislation would provide much needed stability and peace of mind to American workers as we confront the growing coronavirus pandemic.”

“Michiganders forced to stay at home from work due to coronavirus shouldn’t need to worry about being able to pay their bills or putting food on the table,” said Peters. “We need to do everything possible to support workers and families during this challenging time. I’m pleased to join this bipartisan effort to help ensure Michigan families can stay afloat financially during the coronavirus outbreak.”


Reach Kevin Derby at


  • Originally from Jacksonville, Kevin Derby is a contributing writer for Florida Daily and covers politics across Florida.

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