Steptoe & Johnson LLP
The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis, and first responders are on the front lines. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the country, Congress and the Trump administration have taken drastic action to provide relief. On March 27, President Trump signed into law the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a massive $2 trillion package designed to both combat the virus and stimulate the economy by providing immediate assistance to hospitals, states, municipalities, small businesses and individuals.
Among the relief funding included in the CARES Act was $850 million for the Department of Justice’s Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program. This fund sets aside money for states, local governments and tribes to respond to COVID-19. The funds, which are available to all government entities that were eligible for Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants in fiscal year 2019, can be used by law enforcement agencies for providing overtime, law enforcement and medical personal protective equipment (PPE), hiring, supplies (such as gloves, masks and sanitizer), training, travel expenses and medical care for inmates in detention centers.
At the time this issue went to print, and as the medical and economic crisis worsens, it is likely that Congress and the Trump administration will work toward additional relief measures. In particular, both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have expressed their desire for $150 billion in additional funding for state and local governments. PORAC is actively engaging with Congress to ensure that this funding is made available to law enforcement agencies, as well as to ensure that municipalities taking any eventual funding are unable to lay off public safety officers.
PORAC Responds to the COVID-19 Crisis
PORAC has been heavily engaged with federal policymakers to ensure that public safety officers across California are receiving the aid and resources they need to serve our communities during this crisis. During the week of March 23, PORAC held a series of tele-town halls for each of PORAC’s four regions. In each town hall, PORAC members were joined by dozens of state and federal lawmakers. Members shared their needs and experiences of law enforcement on the ground in California. In turn, lawmakers asked questions and were able to provide their own updates on the progress of the federal response. During one town hall, Representative Norma Torres even announced that she had several sources of PPE that she could provide to law enforcement agencies in her district. Within days, Representative Torres had done so. These town halls have provided a basis for increased coordination between PORAC and lawmakers.
In addition to the greatly successful PORAC tele-town halls, PORAC has sent letters to congressional leadership, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and President Trump stressing the need for attention to the needs of law enforcement officers. In addition, PORAC stressed the need for COVID-19 to be established as a presumptive occupational illness, which would ensure coverage and benefits for law enforcement officers that contract the virus on the job. These letters to the president and to the secretary of Labor are republished here. PORAC continues to work on these important issues with our congressional allies and will do so for the duration of this crisis.