House Democrats are proposing H.R. 6666, a multi-billion dollar bill authorizing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to “award grants to eligible entities to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID–19, and related activities such as contact tracing, through mobile health units and, as necessary, at individuals’ residences.”
The COVID-19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act — what some appropriately note is filed as H.R. 6666 — provides $100 billion in grants distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to “eligible entities” so they can “trace and monitor the contacts of infected individuals, and to support the quarantine of such contacts, through mobile health units and, as necessary, testing individuals and providing individuals with services related to testing and quarantine at their residences.”
According to the legislation, recipients of the grant can use the funds to “hire, train, compensate, and pay the expenses” of individuals to carry out the tasks related to testing and contact tracing.
Eligible entities include federally qualified health centers, school-based health clinics, academic medical centers, non-profits, institutions of higher education, and any other entity that the secretary deems eligible.
Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) formally introduced the bill this month, asserting that it will be “impossible” to reopen the economy and return to normal “if we do not step up our testing efforts and implement robust and widespread contact tracing.”
“Until we have a vaccine to defeat this dreaded disease, contact tracing in order to understand the full breadth and depth of the spread of this virus is the only way we will be able to get out from under this,” he said of the TRACE Act, attempting soften certain aspects of the bill by using the phrase “door-to-door outreach.”
The COVID-19 TRACE Act will allow us to do this by creating a $100 billion dollar grant program for local organizations to hire, train, and pay individuals and to purchase supplies to run mobile testing units and door-to-door outreach as is safe and necessary, with special preference being given to those operating in hot spots and medically underserved communities, as well as those entities who commit to hiring from these neighborhoods.
“I am immensely proud to see this bill receive bipartisan support and I hope to see the COVID-19 TRACE Act swiftly adopted by the House as a stand-alone bill or as part of a larger coronavirus response package,” he added:
The @CDCgov says contact tracing, is a “core disease control measure” & “key strategy for preventing further spread of COVID-19.”
The COVID-19 TRACE Act would allow for mobile testing & door-to-door outreach to ensure we can SAFELY get back to normal. https://t.co/YlYhCQA5rR
— Bobby L. Rush (@RepBobbyRush) May 9, 2020
Absolutely. My bill, the COVID-19 TRACE Act (H.R. 6666) would create a $100 BILLION grant program for local organizations to hire, train, and pay individuals to operate mobile testing units and conduct contact tracing in hot spots and medically underserved areas. https://t.co/5YGK34ifsU
— Bobby L. Rush (@RepBobbyRush) May 5, 2020
The Illinois Democrat said in the Q&A portion of his release that taking the tests “would be completely voluntary.” He also attempted to tamp down concerns of government overreach by stating in bold font that the bill “does not authorize anyone to enter your home, for whatever reason, without your permission, nor does it allow the government to remove anyone from your home because of the coronavirus.”
On Tuesday, Rush continued, contending that there is “nothing in this bill that will threaten anyone’s individual liberties”:
Question: How can we ensure our liberties will be preserved?
Answer: I have spent my entire life fighting for the liberty of my community & others. There is nothing in this bill that will threaten anyone's individual liberties. Again, this bill is about increasing testing. https://t.co/63pt42plvY
— Bobby L. Rush (@RepBobbyRush) May 12, 2020
However, his proclamation has done little to ease the concerns of critics, who view the bill as a slippery slope.
“This is nothing but a massive government surveillance program cloaked in a cure-the-coronavirus label,” the Washington Times’ Cheryl K. Chumley warned, adding that the measure “does it deceptively so, under the guise of providing a societal good.”
H.R. 6666 has several co-sponsors, mostly Democrats, including Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).