WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) gave his 19th Senate floor speech Tuesday, calling on the Senate to act on another COVID-19 relief bill before the end of the year.

A bipartisan group of senators has unveiled a bipartisan proposal which Portman believes is a good starting point for negotiations. Portman made it clear that the Senate must act now to avoid further economic suffering by providing another relief package to serve as a bridge to when vaccines will be readily available in the spring enabling a return to normal life.

A number of important programs designed to help Americans navigate the health care and economic crises caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are set to expire at the end of 2020, including the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefit, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), a moratorium on evictions for renters, and deferrals on student loan payments.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has already expired, hurting many small businesses in Ohio and around the country.

Failure to extend these programs into 2021 could cause significant economic hardship for thousands of people at a time when COVID-19 cases are surging and putting the country in jeopardy of further economic suffering. That is why Portman believes the Senate should not adjourn until such legislation is passed.

“I’m here on the floor today to once again talk about the need for this Senate and this Congress to pass legislation to deal with the COVID-19 crisis," Portman said. "I think we have to do this now before the end of the year, certainly before we leave the Congress to go back home for the holiday recess. We just got back from a week-long recess for Thanksgiving, and all the members of this body, all of them, had to have seen what I saw, which is an up-close look at the crisis that’s upon us. In Ohio, our daily new cases are four times what they were just one month ago. Four times. I see the numbers every single day, and they are discouraging. And it’s not just new cases. It’s more people hospitalized. It’s more people in the ICU units. It’s more people, tragically, who are counted among the fatalities.

“The last big package was passed in March, about nine months ago. It’s time for us to act again. And there is some good news out there. With all of the negative news about the cases and hospitalizations, ICUs, and tragically, the fatalities increasing, the good news is that there is hope on the horizon, and that is the vaccines. I have been a big supporter of providing the federal funding for the vaccines, and I applaud the administration for the work they have done on this Operation Warp Speed because I believe that while masks are critical – and I wear mine, and I hope you’re wearing yours – the social distancing is very helpful, the work that people are doing on the therapies is really important, we need more testing, and that’s good to know where we stand, but nothing can take the place of these vaccines. Think about the other diseases we’ve tackled with vaccines. Measles and smallpox and polio. My dad had polio as a kid. It was fairly common. Today we don’t even think about it. These vaccinations, if they work well, can be amazing. And guess what we learned over the past several weeks? We learned that the early results from some of these vaccines, including the early data we have from the Moderna and the Pfizer candidates are incredibly effective. We’re talking over 90 percent efficacy or effectiveness.

“American lives are at stake and we’re in danger of losing whatever ground we gained on the coronavirus as this third wave threatens my home state of Ohio and the states of so many of my colleagues in this chamber. Let’s not wait any longer. Let’s come together and get something done that’s good for the American people before the end of the year and let’s stay here. I’m committed to staying here. Let’s stay here until we do that.”