June 29,2020

Senate Unanimously Passes Wyden-Grassley Bill To Keep HHS Repatriation Program Afloat During COVID-19 Crisis

The Emergency Aid for Returning Americans Affected by Coronavirus Act would ensure adequate funding is available to help Americans recently brought back to U.S. because of COVID-19

Washington, D.C. – The Senate by unanimous consent today passed the Emergency Aid for Returning Americans Affected by Coronavirus Act authored by Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. 


The legislation temporarily raises the cap for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) repatriation program from $1 million to $10 million to ensure adequate funding is available to help those who have recently been brought back to the U.S. as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also includes language designed to ensure only those with proper training and personal protective equipment engage directly with those repatriated due to COVID-19.


"Without Congressional action, thousands of Americans brought back to the United States because of the COVID-19 pandemic will be left without the help they need," Wyden said. "This much-needed additional funding will make sure these families receive the resources promised to help them transition back to life in our country."


“Helping our fellow Americans who’ve returned to the United States is a critical responsibility of the federal government. The current global health crisis has made it necessary to repatriate thousands of people, and we ought to make sure the resources are there to help individuals and families in the short-term so they can get back on their feet. Our bill does just that,” Grassley said.


HHS can provide temporary aid such as housing and basic assistance to certain repatriated U.S. citizens and dependents who are (1) without available resources and (2) identified by the Department of State as having returned (or been brought) from a foreign country because the citizen was destitute, ill, or because of war, threat of war, invasion, or a similar crisis. The funding for this repatriation program is capped at $1 million per year and usually serves less than 1,000 people annually. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, however, the U.S. Department of State has helped over 99,000 Americans return to the United States.


Given the large number of U.S. citizens repatriated due to COVID-19 who can apply for assistance under the repatriation program, HHS' ability to serve these repatriated Americans is threatened unless Congress provides additional funding. The Emergency Aid for Returning Americans Affected by Coronavirus Act would lift the repatriation funding cap to $10 million to allow HHS to serve more repatriated Americans. 


A copy of the bill text is available here.