U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, on July 16 called for an extension in unemployment benefits during a time when millions of unemployed Americans are in jeopardy of losing their $600 weekly benefit by the end of July.

The congressman stressed this support during his public telephone town hall on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

With the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders leading to high unemployment rates last March, the federal government passed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid Response and Economic Security (CARES) Act to assist those affected during this economic fallout.

This package includes extra funding of $600 per week for those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. This bonus is provided as a supplement to the unemployment benefits that millions of people are receiving from the state where they live.

The $600 CARES Act bonus is scheduled to expire on July 31, unless the Trump administration and the Senate approve an extension.

Bera stressed his support for obtaining this extension.

“I will be flying back to Washington, D.C.,” he said. “We do think we need to keep extending unemployment benefits. We need to continue making sure people can cover their basics: food, shelter, clothing and just the basic necessities that everyone needs.

“Again, this is the time where we need to come together as a country, a region and state, and really look after one another. It’s going to be extremely important.”

Bera also addressed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act – the proposed $3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May, and includes an extension of the $600 per week extra unemployment funding through January 2021, student loan forgiveness of up to $10,000 per person, and other benefits.

The bill must also be passed by the Senate to be fully approved.

“We’ll go back in session and the Senate will be back in session on Monday (July 20), and we’ll be in session for those two weeks,” he said.

“We’re willing to stay additional weeks to get this done, because we know that enhanced unemployment benefits that many people are relying on to be able to pay their rent, to put food on their table, that all runs out at the end of July. We’ve got to extend those unemployment benefits, because, again, we know we’re going to be grappling with this virus for the foreseeable future, at least the rest of this calendar year.”

Bera’s comments came two days after more Sacramento County businesses were ordered to reclose their indoor services, due to a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases.

County health director

addresses county’s increase in COVID-19 cases

While joining Bera in the July 16 telephone town hall, Dr. Peter Beilenson, director of Sacramento County’s Department of Health Services, provided statistics on the county’s recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

“We’re at 6,400 cases now in Sacramento County,” he said. “To put that in perspective, we had 2,000 cases total in the first 20 weeks of the outbreak. We’ve had about 1,000 each week the last four weeks or so that have gotten us up to this number.”

Beilenson noted that despite these increases, Sacramento County’s case numbers are lower per capita than those of many of California’s major counties.

However, Beilenson stressed that the county is concerned about the hospitalization and intensive care (ICU) cases.

“We’ve gone from eight hospitalization cases about five weeks ago to 184 this week, today,” he said. “So, we’ve gone up around 19-fold. And 58 people in the ICU, as opposed to two in the ICU before.

“So, the thing that we’re most concerned about in terms of the number of cases, is trying to keep the people out of the hospitals and the ICU, to keep from overloading those two entities.”

Beilenson concluded that these figures place the county in a “risky situation.”

“We’re not in a terrible situation, but we’re clearly in a risky situation, compared to where we were four weeks or so ago,” he said.