Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced legislation Friday to expand disaster aid to individuals impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ocasio-Cortez said the current criteria only allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide direct assistance to individuals during natural disasters such as wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes — not a pandemic.
Sen. Kamala Harris introduced a companion measure in March.
AOC’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of Queens and the Bronx, has been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Nearly 20,000 people in my district have tested positive for a deadly virus. Thousands of my constituents are without work. We built temporary field hospitals in public parks. This is what a disaster looks like. FEMA needs to begin immediately dispersing aid to individuals hurt by COVID-19,” she said.
The Pandemic Disaster Assistance Act would ensure that after any disaster declared by a governor or the president, individuals would be able to apply directly for FEMA aid from the following programs: Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (D-SNAP), Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), medical assistance, funeral aid and child care support.
AOC caught flak last week when she was the only House Democrat to vote against the $484 billion COVID relief package, or Payroll Protection Plan. The new law replenishes funds to a small-business loan program and steers $75 billion to reeling hospitals and $25 billion for COVID-19 testing.
Ocasio-Cortez claimed the measure was inadequate given the extraordinary need.