By Brian Porter
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, is leading an effort to include the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act in the next COVID-19 relief package.
The bipartisan, bicameral effort is being joined by 22 senators and 17 representatives. Senate Bill 2661 would designate 9-8-8 as the three-digit number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. Gardner introduced the legislation with Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, Wisc., Jerry Moran, R-Manhattan, Kan., and Jack Reed, D-Cranston, R.I.
“The creation of this three-digit dialing code is essential in order to address the growing suicide crisis across the United States,” wrote Gardner and his colleagues. “As our country is facing an unprecedented challenge in responding to COVID-19, this three-digit hotline would play a critical role in saving the lives of many vulnerable Americans who are facing mental health emergencies during this period of isolation and uncertainty. Suicide does not discriminate between rural and urban areas or by income, and it causes heartbreak and loss in communities in every single one of our states. We must ensure that we are doing everything we can to prevent these devastating outcomes from occurring, especially in these trying times as grief and uncertainty encompass our nation.”
The legislation would include the Veterans Crisis Line for veteran-specific mental health support. The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis line is 10-digits long, which is a barrier to Americans in crisis seeking support, a FCC report found. The bill includes a report to improve support services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and other high-risk populations. Nearly 50 mental health organizations and veterans support organizations have announced their support of the legislation.
Bennet calls for DACA grant access
U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Denver, and Bob Menendez, D-Paramus, N.J., led a group of 26 Democrat senators to call on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students to access emergency financial aid grant funding secured in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“DACA recipients came to this country as children and make extraordinary contributions to our communities and our economy,” wrote the senators in a letter to Secretary DeVos. “During this Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, DACA recipients attending institutions of higher education across the country face challenges like other students, many with the added burden of supporting their parents and siblings or being the first in their families to attend college. These students should not be excluded from critical aid. Indeed, those who are especially vulnerable to economic hardship are exactly whom these funds were designed to help.”
DeVos recently announced that the U.S. Department of Education will restrict eligibility for the emergency financial aid based on a student’s citizenship status. In the letter, the senators explained that the higher education grant funding is meant for college students experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including DACA recipients.
Grant awards $9.1M to Colorado DPS
The Colorado Department of Public Safety will receive $9,184,619 in Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) grants from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Projects and purchases the grant will fund include, but are not limited to, overtime, equipment (including law enforcement and medical personal protective equipment), hiring, supplies such as gloves, masks and sanitizer, training, travel expenses, and addressing the medical needs of inmates in state, local, and tribal prisons, jails and detention centers.
This funding is in addition to the nearly $1.5 million delivered to Colorado from the DOJ last week and was provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law March 27, 2020.
“I’m pleased to see this important funding from the Department of Justice awarded to Colorado to help our dedicated professionals on the front lines of COVID-19,” Gardner said. “We must keep fighting to ensure our healthcare providers and first responders have the resources they need to respond to this pandemic.”
Democrats question implementation of CARES Act
A response written by Bennet and 46 Senate Democrats questions the Trump Administration’s restrictions on how governors can distribute COVID-19 Relief Funds to their states.
The letter sent to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin calls upon him to revise initial guidelines so that state, tribal, and local governments can provide essential public services amid the outbreak. The letter indicates an overly restrictive interpretation and implementation of the law could severely limit states’ abilities to respond and recover, forcing states and communities to cut public services, and lead to layoffs of public employees on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included a $150 billion relief fund for states, helping with urgent needs and to cope with the public health and economic impact of the virus. States may use the federal funding for costs related to the COVID-19 public health emergency incurred between March 1 and December 30, 2020, the law reads.
The letter urges the Trump Administration “to follow the law as written instead of creating more bureaucratic red tape in the middle of a public health emergency and ensuing economic crisis. Of all the regulations that this Administration seeks to cut, it should start with this one.”
FAA awards $13.3M grant to DIA
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will award Denver International Airport $13,333,333 in Airport Improvement Program grant funding for taxiway construction.
A portion of this funding was permitted under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law March 27, 2020.
“I’m pleased Denver International Airport will receive funding to help facilitate taxiway improvements,” Gardner said. “This funding is welcome news and will help ensure Denver International Airport can continue to meet Coloradans’ needs. Going forward, I will continue to support Colorado’s transportation priorities at the federal level.”Read the Article Here