(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), former Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Donna Shalala (D-FL), House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and E&C Committee Member Peter Welch (D-VT) today introduced H.R. 6525, the Reopen America Act of 2020 (RAA). This science-based legislation establishes a comprehensive national effort to re-open the U.S. economy while aggressively protecting the public health against recurring COVID-19 outbreaks.
The RAA rests on the idea that two public health conditions must be met for America to reopen safely and durably: 1) social distancing must have lowered infection rates sufficiently to allow hospitals to properly care for the infected population and 2) public health safeguards must be able to keep transmission rates below one.
The RAA invites states, coalitions of states, the District of Columbia, territories, and tribal governments to submit their detailed reopening plans to the HHS Secretary and upon approval, receive federal funding for the costs associated with implementing them. In evaluating whether a plan can keep infection and transmission rates low, the Secretary will be advised by an expert advisory panel and guided by scientific principles and data. Upon approval of a plan, states will receive federal funds to pay for state costs associated with a safe reopening to make sure that testing, treatment, contact tracing and other public health measures are in place.
Because the states have been laboring under conditions of supply scarcity and vicious interstate competition and bidding wars, the RAA creates a federal Health Equipment Production Board to activate industry to generate all the tests, protective equipment, ventilators, and effective treatments necessary to reopen commerce and social life in a way that puts public health first. The Board will be responsible for ensuring national and regional availability of medical supplies and equipment needed for COVID-19 response and the safe implementation of reopening plans. It will be empowered to procure and distribute supplies and equipment as needed. The Board will also assure manufacturing and distribution capacity so the government is ready and able to produce and distribute as rapidly as possible coronavirus treatments and vaccines as they become available. If necessary, the Board can invoke the authorities of the Defense Production Act.
The RAA is cosponsored by more than 50 House Democrats, including: Jamie Raskin; Donna Shalala; Hakeem Jeffries; Anna Eshoo; Peter Welch; Colin Allred; G.K. Butterfield; Tony Cárdenas; Ed Case; Sean Casten; David Cicilline; Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr.; Wm. Lacy Clay; TJ Cox; Danny K. Davis; Ted Deutch; Debbie Dingell; Veronica Escobar; Adriano Espaillat; Lizzie Fletcher; John Garamendi; Jesús G. "Chuy" García; Sylvia R. Garcia; Deb Haaland; Alcee Hastings; Joseph P. Kennedy, III; John B. Larson; Brenda L. Lawrence; Sheila Jackson Lee; Andy Levin; Ted Lieu; Alan Lowenthal; Tom Malinowski; James P. McGovern; Seth Moulton; Debbie Mucarsel-Powell; Jerrold Nadler; Joe Neguse; Eleanor Holmes Norton; Scott Peters; Mark Pocan; Ayanna Pressley; Bobby L. Rush; Tim Ryan; Harley Rouda; Kim Schrier; Darren Soto; Mark Takano; Lauren Underwood; Mary Gay Scanlon; Nydia M. Velázquez; and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The full text of the bill, H.R. 6525, can be found here. The Reopen America Act is the major House Democratic policy alternative to President Trump’s release of voluntary “guidelines” for states to consider if they want to reopen.