WASHINGTON – Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) on March 16 sent a letter to Reps. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Peter DeFazio (D=Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, urging them to oppose any bailout of the cruise industry and instead focus on supporting the federal response to the coronavirus.
Matsui is a long-time advocate for improving safety, security and medical standards aboard cruise vessels. She authored the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA), bipartisan legislation that was signed into law in 2010.
This Congress, she has reintroduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act (CPPA), which would build on the CVSSA to ensure maximum protection for passengers and victims. This bill would require a trained physician and sufficient number of qualified medical staff on board to treat passengers.
The text of the letter follows:
“I write today to voice my strong opposition to any bailout or funding package directed to the cruise industry in response to the coronavirus pandemic. As we work to collectively address this public health crisis, we should be focusing all available federal resources on preventing harm to American families, not supporting foreign-owned businesses.
“Given the speed and severity of the spread of the coronavirus, our federal response must be urgent, coordinated, and comprehensive. While active containment measures are being taken to slow the rate of transmission across the country, it is clear that the effects of this outbreak will be widespread and require a sustained response. Many Americans are or may soon be struggling to get tested, receive care, pay rent, purchase medications, and other simple necessities.
“In the face of this crisis, our principal obligation is to ensure their well-being. Federal resources directed to the cruise industry that could otherwise support our federal containment strategy will mean fewer tests, ventilators, emergency leave, and food security initiatives for Americans.
“Unlike American families, corporations that operate foreign-flagged vessels do not pay taxes in the United States. This industry has enjoyed significant profits without paying federal taxes that support agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Food and Drug Administration that are crucial components in our fight against the coronavirus.
“Additionally, pervasive safety and medical shortcomings on vessels have caused numerous Americans harm. I worked on a bipartisan basis to pass the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act in 2010 to strengthen crime reporting and video surveillance requirements, improve medical standards, and hold cruise lines responsible for deaths, sexual assaults, and violent crimes at sea.
“This Congress, I reintroduced the bipartisan Cruise Passenger Protection Act to further strengthen passenger safety on cruise ships. Specifically, the bill would ensure a physician is always present and that a sufficient number of qualified medical staff are on board to treat passengers. These measures would be especially helpful in addressing the spread of similar outbreaks in the future.
“While we have made progress, more must be done to implement safeguards that protect families and give people peace of mind that when they board a cruise ship they will be safe. However, directing federal funding to the cruise industry during a public health crisis will not slow the spread of the coronavirus nor advance passenger safety.
“I look forward to working with you to on these important issues and appreciate your attention to this matter.”