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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Salud: Coronavirus Spread at Lompoc Prison Could Become "A Disaster That's Unfathomable"

Hours after his arrival back in Washington, Rep. Salud Carbajal checked in with Newsmakers with an update on the $484 billion pandemic relief bill the House is to vote on Thursday morning -- and provided a brief on the most urgent COVID-19 problems back home.

Carbajal said that the Senate-passed legislation contains about $310 billion in aid for small business through the so-called Paycheck Protection Program; about $75 billion for hospitals; and $25 billion in money to expand testing programs across the nation, a crucial element in battling the killer novel coronavirus, among other items.

On Wednesday evening, Salud said he was still reading through the massive bill to determine specifically how the money would reach businesses, constituents and medical facilities in his 24th Congressional District, which includes Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and a small portion of Ventura counties.

At the same time, he added, the legislation -- fourth in a series of massive spending bills aimed at blunting the impact of the deadly pandemic -- does not include major fiscal aid for state and local governments, which are reeling from steep declines in tax revenue, because Republican Senate leaders successfully held a hard line on the issue in negotiations with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies.

He and fellow Democrats will push hard for such direct aid in the next round of coronavirus legislation, he said, describing it as "CARES 2" -- short for The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. CARES is the acronym for the $2.2 trillion measure approved by Congress and signed by Donald Trump last month.

In that legislation, Santa Barbara County was excluded from receiving direct federal aid, which targeted local jurisdictions with populations of 500,000 or more; Salud promised he would work with representatives from other smaller areas to include more money in the next, CARES 2, round of legislation.

In the interview, Carbajal also:

  • Disclosed that he and California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris have "not gotten an official response" from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to their repeated demands for more aid at the Federal Correctional Institution in Lompoc; after the three first contacted the bureau, however, the feds began hurry-up construction of a mobile hospital site on the grounds of the prison, which remains the epicenter of COVID-19 in SB County, but Salud said more is needed in terms of respirators, protection for correctional officers and other resources to avert a potential "disaster that's unfathomable."

  • Said he "understand(s) the gravity" of financial pressures created by the pandemic on Sansum Clinic, which has been forced to furlough several hundred employees and sharply curtail its operations of multi-department outpatient clinics, elective procedures and other operations; because the non-profit clinic is not in a direct financial partnership with a hospital -- an arrangement federal officials denied several years ago -- it has fallen into a legal loophole, and so far been passed over for federal help, a predicament Salud said he is working to address.

  • Confirmed that he supports congressional efforts to earmark future relief funds for local news organizations, many of have been decimated by the collapse of advertising by business shuttered in the pandemic; more than 200 House members have joined with several Senators in a letter to Trump seeking one-time stimulus funds for small business news outfits, at a time when thousands of journalists have lost their jobs and some alternative weeklies have been forced to cease publication.

After his all-day flight from LAX -- he said his plane was "one-fifth full" and the airport was "a ghost town" - Carbajal said he is optimistic that House Democrats and Republicans will soon agree on a method for members to cast votes remotely, or by proxy, at a time when social distancing is the rule in most other workplaces.

As a political matter, the remote voting issue is significant: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell adjourned the Senate for a month shortly after passing the small business legislation, and sounds lukewarm about another huge relief bill. This means that it may be difficult for House Democrats to win swift passage of a CARES 2 measure, unless he agrees to bring the Senate back early.

You can watch the entire interview with Carbajal by clicking above...and the podcast version is here.


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