KENNEDY OFFERS BIPARTISAN KATRINA PLAN TO PROVIDE HEALTH CARE AND SAFETY PROTECTIONS AS THE REBUILDING BEGINS INTRODUCES HEALTH AND WORK RELIEF PACKAGE
Washington, DC: Today Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Senator Mike Enzi introduced major portions of their Katrina Relief package, covering health and work protections for the people impacted by the disaster. Their plan will help ensure that victims get and can pay for the health care they need, that the men and women who work to rebuild the region are safe and healthy, that vulnerable populations such as the disabled and elderly are given services, and that impacted businesses are given temporary relief from their financial obligations.
“This disaster reminds us that we are all part of the American family - and we have a responsibility to help members of that family when they are in need,” Senator Kennedy said.
“Our government must respond in ways that are as good and compassionate as the American people. This bipartisan bill will deliver the help that the people of the Gulf Coast deserve.”
In the past few weeks Senator Kennedy has visited New Orleans, spent time with evacuees at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts and met with recovery experts and officials from the area to determine the best course of action. Kennedy and Enzi introduced the education portion of their plan on September 15 to accommodate misplaced students and reopen schools, and will offer further education provisions in the near future.
The provisions related to healthcare, entitled the “Public Health and Health Insurance Emergency Response Act” focus on two goals: 1) helping survivors pay for and keep their healthcare and 2) removing administrative barriers and strengthening the ability of health professionals to treat victims and prepare for future disaster. For example, the bipartisan bill would provide individuals with a three month waiver from health insurance premiums for the health care they receive.
After meeting with evacuees in Massachusetts, Kennedy became especially determined to ensure that all of those who were impacted by the hurricane get the mental health services that they may need. His bill ensures that appropriate support services including equipment, supplies, medications, and other types of assistance are available to vulnerable populations including the elderly and those with disabilities.The provisions related to labor take into account the dangerous work that the men and women in the Gulf Coast are doing and provides health and safety protections for them. Thousands of men and women have been working around the clock to find and rescue families, to provide them with food and shelter, and to evacuate them from the area. In the coming days thousands more will be on the ground reestablishing communications, cleaning up debris, restoring services, and rebuilding infrastructure. Kennedy’s bill urges OSHA and other health and safety agencies to follow the Worker Health and Safety Annex protections of our National Response Plan. And it authorizes funds to be spent for additional personnel, enforcement of health and safety standards, critical safety information for workers and employers, and safety and health training.
Below are summaries of the health and labor provisions of the Kennedy-Enzi package: