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(OK-1) (R) Rep. Kevin Hern, left; (OK-1) Congressional Rep. candidate  Kojo Asamoa-Caesar, right

Published 03/14/2020 | Reading Time 2 min 7 sec 

By BWSTimes Staff, 

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelming passed The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201) near midnight yesterday, receiving large bipartisan support 360-40. 

Rep. Kevin Hern, of Oklahoma’s first congressional district, voted against the bill. 

“I will not vote for any bill, emergency or not, that contains regulations that would hamstring businesses and workers, especially in this climate where they recover from the economic burden of this virus,” the representative stated in his most recent press release

Hern did make clear that he supports certain provisions of the bill, including a standalone bill that funds coronavirus response efforts, vaccine development, increased testing capabilities, and resources for local and state health officials.

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Hern’s Democratic opponent for the upcoming U.S. Okla. District I congressional race, Kojo Asamoa-Caesar condemned Hern’s vote, responding, “I applaud the efforts of both Democrats and Republicans in the House in passing this desperately-needed assistance for American families.”

Asamoa-Caesar added, “I am appalled that the current representative for Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional District, Rep. Kevin Hern, voted ‘No’ on this essential legislation.”

Tulsa County currently has two COVID-19 cases confirmed. 

Asamoa-Caesar said, I would have been a strong “Yes” on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, because I am running for Congress to improve the lives of Oklahomans and build an America where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is within reach for all—every single day, and especially in a crisis.”

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Amid the global outbreak, Hern blamed House Democrats, stating, “I was optimistic Democrats would embrace this same bipartisan tone on future coronavirus legislation. I am truly disappointed by tonight’s policy options. Before tonight’s vote, I wrote a letter to Speaker Pelosi urging her to keep the House in session until we can come to the table with legislation written in the best interests of the American people. To those asking, yes, that means I think we need to work through the weekend and into next week if needed.”

Nevertheless, a Capitol Hill staffer tested postive earlier in the week for COVID-19, and President Donald J. Trump encouraged Americans to practice social- distancing amid the growing pandemic and national emergency. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated, “We cannot fight coronavirus effectively unless everyone in our country who needs to be tested knows they can get their test free of charge. We cannot slow the coronavirus outbreak when workers are stuck with the terrible choice between staying home to avoid spreading illness and the paycheck their family can’t afford to lose.” 

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HR 6201 responds to the coronavirus outbreak, providing paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing. Moreover, it expands food assistance and unemployment benefits and requires employers to provide additional protections for health care workers. 

Furthermore, HR 6201 modifies USDA food assistance and nutrition programs, allowing certain waivers to requirements for the school meal programs, suspends the work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program), and allows states to request waivers to provide certain emergency SNAP benefits.

Lastly, the bill requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a temporary emergency standard that requires certain employers to develop and implement a comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plan to protect health care workers. 

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