Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement:
“Yesterday, at my request, Under Secretary of State Brian Bulatao briefed members of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee on the State Department’s response to the coronavirus crisis. I’ve been in contact with Under Secretary Bulatao and other Department officials over the last few weeks about the unprecedented impacts of this global pandemic. And the Foreign Affairs Committee staff has been working around the clock to provide House offices with the latest information we are receiving on the Department’s repatriation efforts and to help those offices address concerns from thousands of Americans overseas.
“I continue to hear from my own constituents abroad about challenges they and other Americans are facing as they try to return to the United States from foreign countries, particularly Peru. I pressed Mr. Bulatao on the need to get ahead of possible future border closures. I’m pleased that the Department appears to be ramping up coordination with the Defense Department and the commercial sector to help assist Americans who are trying to get home, efforts that I’ve supported.
“As Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I also want to make sure that our diplomatic workforce is getting the support and resources they need to deal with this pandemic. I sought assurances that the Department’s leave policy will provide our personnel and their families the flexibility they need to get through this challenging time. The Department also needs to be as transparent as possible about the prevalence of the virus among its employees and ensure that testing is available for those who need it.
“Today’s call was a positive effort to answer the needs of Americans being relayed through their elected representatives. The Department should schedule another briefing for all House members as soon as possible.”
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