TRACE Act: Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush’s COVID-19 Bill, HR 6666, Sparks Backlash
Rush introduced the H.R. 6666 TRACE Act (formally known as the COVID-19 Testing, Reaching and Contracting Everyone Act) on May 1. The Act would create grants for health care, school-based, academic and nonprofit entities to run mobile testing sites and hire staff to test.
However, the Action Network started a petition called “Stop the Unconstitutional, Illegal TRACE Act (HR 6666)” to prevent the bill from being adopted by Congress. The petition, which has since become unavailable, read in part: “It is a stunningly illegal power grab beyond what the Constitution offers the Congress, and an outright assault on the people to be deplored by all. And, it is also a massive waste of $100 billion – allocated for 2020 alone.”
At the time of writing, the petition had gathered 3,898 signatures of the 6,400 required.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Bill Is Still in the Committee Phase
On his website, Rush said, “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.”
The bill says, in part:
The Secretary of Health and Human Services, acting through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, may award grants to eligible entities to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID–19, to trace and monitor the contacts of infected individuals, and to support the quarantine of such contacts, through—
(1) mobile health units; and
(2) as necessary, testing individuals and providing individuals with services related to testing and quarantine at their residences.
(b) Permissible uses of funds.—A grant recipient under this section may use the grant funds, in support of the activities described in subsection (a)—
(1) to hire, train, compensate, and pay the expenses of individuals; and
(2) to purchase personal protective equipment and other supplies.
(c) Priority.—In selecting grant recipients under this section, the Secretary shall give priority to—
(1) applicants proposing to conduct activities funded under this sectionin hot spots and medically underserved communities; and
(2) applicants that agree, in hiring individuals to carry out activities funded under this section, to hire residents of the area or community where the activities will primarily occur, with higher priority among applicants described in this paragraph given based on the percentage of individuals to be hired from such area or community.
Read the full bill here.
Co-sponsors of Rush’s bill include Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Steve Cohen of Tennessee. Only one Republican, Rep. Jefferson Van Drew of New Jersey, signed on as a co-sponsor.
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Backlash To the Bill Has Been Strong
A draft of the bill, called the COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act, also encourages more transparency about what people’s information is being used for among phone companies like Apple and data collectors like Google.