Over the last year, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has worked to protect Ohioans’ health and safety and their economic security amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He led efforts to get healthcare providers, essential workers and working families the resources they need as we all continue fighting to get the pandemic under control. And he helped secure critical provisions in COVID relief packages to halt evictions, secure rental assistance, increase unemployment insurance benefits, and provide financial relief to small businesses that are struggling.
This year, Brown worked with Republicans and Democrats to introduce more than 100 bills – more than 37 of which he introduced with Senator Portman. Brown successfully sent several bipartisan bills to President Trump’s desk to become law, including his Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act, which will help nonprofits, state and local governments and federally recognized Tribes remain financially viable during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his bill to reauthorize the Healthy Start Program, which aims to reduce the national infant mortality rate. Brown’s African American Burial Grounds Network Act, which would set up a voluntary, nationwide network of African American burial grounds, passed the Senate and is expected to be signed into law before the end of the year.
Brown also secured a number of year-end wins in the government funding package passed by the Senate that included badly-needed COVID relief for Ohio. Brown secured provisions to end surprise medical bills, protect seniors from out-of-pocket costs for preventive colonoscopies, permanently lower taxes on craft beverages, fund Ohio’s military installations, invest in NASA and in ongoing cleanup at the Piketon plant. As part of the COVID-relief package, Brown also helped secure rental and utility assistance, stimulus checks for Ohioans, 11 additional weeks of unemployment benefits and funding for small businesses and healthcare providers.
While Brown led by example and didn’t hold in-person events amid the pandemic, he held 129 virtual events with groups from across Ohio, listening to their priorities and fighting for them in Washington. Brown also hosted a weekly Facebook Live session on his Facebook page every Wednesday to keep Ohioans up-to-date. Since his election to the U.S. Senate, Brown has held 386 roundtables across Ohio and held public events in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.
In 2020, Brown and his office hosted the inaugural statewide Black Women’s Health Symposium virtually, created to address the disparities in health that Black women have faced throughout our country’s history. Brown also hosted several of his annual summer manufacturing camps online, the eighth year of the camps. In December, Brown delivered opening remarks for the first virtual event in the My Brother’s Keeper Ohio’s (MBK Ohio) leadership series.
Here’s a look at more of Brown’s work on behalf of Ohio in 2020 and what’s ahead next year, including working to get critical COVID relief to Ohioans, continuing the fight for racial justice and securing the pensions of thousands of Ohio retirees.
BROWN EFFORTS TO KEEP OHIOANS SAFE, PROVIDE RELIEF TO WORKING FAMILIES DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Brown voted to support all three COVID-relief packages that passed the Senate while continually calling on Congress to do more to help Ohioans in need. Brown helped secure key Ohio wins in each package, including dedicated funding for Ohio, funding for smaller lenders to provide loans to Ohio communities, funding for COVID testing and rental assistance and eviction moratoria.
Brown made it a priority to ensure families and individuals have access to stable housing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In June, he introduced the Protecting Renters from Evictions and Fees Act, which would extend the federal eviction moratorium to March 27, 2021, one year after the date of enactment of the CARES Act, and expands the moratorium to cover substantially all renters. The bill also prohibits fees, fines, and extra charges due to nonpayment of rent. Brown was able to secure an extension of the federal eviction moratorium in the year-end funding package that passed the House and Senate.
Brown fought all year for more protections for renters who are disproportionally impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic and called for more relief to be provided for renters and homeowners in Coronavirus relief packages. In May, he introduced the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020, which would establish an Emergency Rental Assistance program to provide $100 billion in emergency rental assistance to help families and individuals pay their rent and remain housed during and after the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Brown helped secure $25 billion for rental and utility assistance for renters in the year-end funding package passed by Congress.
Worker Safety and Heroes Pay
Throughout the pandemic, Brown has called on corporations to protect the health and safety of frontline workers and pay them what they deserve as they put themselves at risk to keep the economy going. In May, Brown released a plan to keep Ohioans safe, protect workers and reopen the economy safely. In April, Brown unveiled his ‘Heroes Fund’ proposal, to help reward, retain and recruit essential workers who are on the frontlines of this pandemic. Brown also released a plan in March for addressing the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed by healthcare workers on the frontline of keeping Americans healthy and safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Brown joined several of his Senate Democratic colleagues in urging President Trump to use his existing DPA authority to help address widespread shortages of medical equipment, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The President never fully invoked the authority.
State and Local Government Funding
Brown has led efforts to secure more resources for local governments in Ohio that are hurting and struggling to pay for necessary services like police, fire and public safety or vaccine distribution amid the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. In December, Brown helped introduce bipartisan legislation, the State and Local Coronavirus Relief Fund Extension Act which would extend the current year-end deadline for states and local governments to use federal CARES Act assistance from the Coronavirus Relief Fund until December 31, 2021. Under the CARES Act, federal funding from the Coronavirus Relief Fund will be recouped by the Treasury if not spent by the end of the year. In April, Brown wrote to Senate Leaders calling for robust, dedicated and flexible funding for state and local governments as well as flexibility on how existing CARES Act funding may be spent. Brown also pushed for state and local government funding to be included in the year-end package, but was rejected by Senate Republicans who hold the majority.
Paid Sick Leave
In March, Brown introduced new, emergency paid sick days legislation building off the Healthy Families Act (HFA), to provide paid sick days immediately to Ohio workers in light of the coronavirus crisis, and in preparation for future public health emergencies. This legislation, the Paid Sick Days for Public Health Emergencies and Personal Family Care Act, would require all employers to allow workers to accrue seven days of paid sick days and to provide an additional 14 days available immediately in the event of any public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis.
Combatting Racial Disparities in COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed how racial disparities in healthcare disproportionately harm Black and brown Ohioans. In May, Brown announced the COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act, legislation to bring together health care and other policy experts, community-based organizations, and community leaders to confront the racial and ethnic disparities of the coronavirus pandemic head on. The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to establish an interagency task force of policy experts, community leaders, and government officials to make data-driven recommendations to federal agencies about directing crucial resources—like testing kits, testing supplies, and personal protective equipment (PPE)—to communities with racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death rates.
Brown also introduced the first-of-its-kind Senate Resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis. The resolution acknowledges the history of racism and discrimination within health care and the systemic barriers that people of color continue to face when seeking care. The resolution also highlights the effects of systemic racism on the health and wellness of communities of color, resulting in shorter life expectancy, worsened health outcomes, and enhanced exposure to harmful or dangerous environments.
Recognizing the financial strain created by the coronavirus pandemic, Brown was one of the first senators to push for direct payments to Americans. In March, Brown sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer outlining a bold new proposal to provide Americans with direct cash payments. Brown also secured important victories for Ohioans when he successfully pushed the Treasury Department to automatically send direct payments to Social Security beneficiaries and SSI recipients without forcing them to fill out a separate tax return.
SECURING LEGISLATIVE VICTORIES FOR OHIOANS
National Defense Authorization Act
In the annual National Defense Authorization Act, Brown secured the following wins for Ohio servicemembers, veterans, military families and defense installations:
· An additional $375 million for a total of $1.1 billion to support the Stryker A1 vehicles manufactured at Lima’s Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) and $1.4 billion for Abrams Tank upgrades and modifications
In December, the Senate unanimously passed legislation co-sponsored by Brown that will reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) for another five years and increase authorized funding for the program from $300 million annually to $475 million annually by fiscal year 2026. The bill now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
In December, Brown applauded an announcement by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it will invest $170,038,205 to expand broadband access to more than 400,000 rural Ohioans. Brown introduced legislation with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) earlier this year, the Rural Broadband Acceleration Act, that would speed up the process of getting these types of investments from the FCC to Ohio communities faster.
Mahoning Valley Scrappers
In November, Brown applauded an announcement from Major League Baseball (MLB) and Prep Baseball Report (PBR) that they will be working together to form an MLB Draft League starting in 2021, a program that will save the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and keep baseball in the Valley. Brown led Congressional efforts to pressure MLB to do the right thing and save the Scrappers, after MLB identified the Scrappers as a team facing cuts from its club-affiliated minor league system as part of its negotiations over an updated agreement with the MiLB.
Brown’s office is here to help Ohioans – whether it is seeking trade relief for Ohio companies, drawing investment and jobs to the state, or helping veterans get their medals. Brown’s office routinely works on behalf of Ohioans for help with federal agencies from the IRS to the VA.
Below is a sample of successful casework stories of Ohioans who reached out to Brown’s Office this year for assistance:
· An Ohioan from Union County needed assistance obtaining the set of medals their late father earned serving our nation in uniform. Following an inquiry from Sen. Brown’s office to the National Personnel Records Center, the constituent received the Bronze Star Medal, European-African-European-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal w/1 Bronze Service Star, WWII Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award, and the Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII.
· An Ohioan from Hamilton County was seeking assistance with obtaining student loan forgiveness because they were a victim of identity theft. Senator Brown’s office helped facilitate communication on the constituent’s behalf with the U.S. Department of Education, and the agency discharged their student loans.
Ohioans can reach out to Brown’s help with federal matters by visiting his website here or calling his Cleveland office at 216-522-7272.
Brown will continue to work to improve the lives of Ohioans and strengthen communities throughout the state. Here’s a look ahead at Brown’s priorities for 2021 and beyond:
Securing Additional COVID-19 Relief
Brown will continue fighting for resources for healthcare providers and frontline workers who are putting their health and safety at risk to help us all get through the pandemic. The Senator will push for extended unemployment benefits, rental assistance, increased funding for testing and vaccine distribution and funding for small businesses and local governments in any future package.
Delivering Results for Ohio Workers
In June in an open letter, Brown called on corporations to invest in their workers, who they claim to recognize as essential. Six months later, little has changed. Brown will work with the Biden Administration to deliver results where Wall Street and corporate CEOs have failed, working to protect workers on the job, raise the minimum wage, enact a paid family leave plan, crack down on the exploitive “independent contractor” business model, invest in American infrastructure that puts people to work at good wages, and build an economy that reflects our values and the Dignity of Work.
Fighting for Racial Justice
Brown will join Ohioans fighting for racial justice for Ohioans, by working for a fairer criminal justice system, honoring the Dignity of Work by championing equal economic opportunity and equal access to housing, increasing access to voting and addressing racial disparities in healthcare and basic services, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Combatting Infant Mortality
Brown continues working to reduce infant mortality rates in Ohio and eliminate the racial disparities in infant mortality rates. Right now, Black infants are more than 2.8 times as likely to die as white infants.
Brown will reintroduce a number of bills to reduce the infant mortality rate in Ohio, including his Healthy Maternal and Obstetric Medicine (Healthy MOM) Act, which would ensure that all women eligible for coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance marketplaces, as well as women eligible for other individual or group health plan coverage, can access affordable health coverage throughout their pregnancies.
Honoring Our Pension Promises
Brown has long led efforts to secure financial security for the more than a million American workers and retirees who are in danger of losing the pensions they’ve earned. According to a recent report, the Multiemployer Program remains severely underfunded with liabilities of more than $66 billion. The PBGC is the arm of the federal government that insures pension plans, and the Multiemployer Program is highly likely to become insolvent by 2026 at the latest. Brown continues working to find a bipartisan solution to the overall pension crisis that faces 60,000 Ohioans, as well as thousands of small businesses across the country.