**WATCH Senator Gillibrand’s Speech on the Senate Floor HERE**
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today spoke on the Senate floor to urge her colleagues to put workers and families first as the Senate considers legislation to provide relief to Americans and the economy during the growing coronavirus emergency. Gillibrand laid out several immediate next steps, including full paid sick and family leave coverage for every American, increased testing availability, nutritional support for public school children, and increased temporary medical facilities.
Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
Right now, across New York State, the country, and the world, we are facing a crisis not seen in a century.
It risks the health of our families and those of our fellow Americans, as well as our economic present and future.
We are at the edge of a precipice and lives are on the line.
The House passed a bill last week that takes a first step in beginning to address these needs.
It provides mandatory emergency sick days, and up to three months of coronavirus-related paid leave, for some workers.
This puts us closer to helping those on the frontlines of this crisis, so they no longer face an impossible choice of staying home to care for themselves or a family member, or risking public health to put food on the table.
Unfortunately, this bill falls short.
In order to fight this crisis, we must slow the spread of this virus, and ultimately stop its transmission. We must provide paid sick days and paid family and medical leave to every American worker – now.
There can be no exceptions or carve outs–especially not for the wealthiest companies in the world.
For anyone who says this can’t be done, they couldn’t be more wrong. We should never send armed forces into battle without a plan, the right equipment and the resources to win. If we don’t equip all our front line defenders, including parents and caregivers, we will fail to limit the spread.
Second, it is clear that in a matter of days, most public school children in American will be out of class.
The stress this puts on working parents is hard to articulate, with or without paid leave.
Many low-income children rely on school for meals. School lunch can often make the difference between being healthy and being malnourished.
Therefore, we need a surge in food stamps, food distribution and emergency meal delivery programs.
Third, we need a surge of testing. Without this critical information, we can’t reopen schools or businesses. To ensure universal free testing, we first must authorize testing by all labs and hospitals, and remove burdensome restrictions.
From the start of this crisis, public health officials have uniformly highlighted the importance of widely available testing, and decried our lack of it.
As we’ve more fully grasped the magnitude of the crisis, states have developed their own tests, and their labs and hospitals are ready to conduct them.
However, the approval process is still lagging. We are testing below our capacity because the FDA and CDC have yet to approve our testing methods.
This is not the time to let red tape stand in our way. The administration must authorize states to utilize their own testing methods, in their own facilities, in order to try to keep up with the spread of the virus.
Again, fighting a war without facts on the ground – crucial intelligence – cannot prevail. We need this information yesterday.
Fourth, I support Governor Cuomo’s call to deploy the Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary medical facilities, so that when hospitals are overwhelmed, we can move people into the temporary facilities.
The federal government must work aggressively to help states increase hospital capacity.
Finally, and I cannot emphasize this enough, every future policy must put families and workers first. No half measures. These are the people on the frontlines of this crisis, and they deserve our unwavering focus and support. Just like we give the troops the resources they need we have to be on that same war footing today.
The very next piece of legislation before this chamber must extend full paid sick and family leave to every American worker. It must deal with the strain caused by the shuttering of our public schools and it must increase our testing capability and build more capacity for care.
We must pass it without further delay. Anything less will be a failure of government in this time of need.
Anything less is accepting defeat before the battle has even been waged.
This is how we fight. Each person protected is a victory.
God Bless America.