On October 6th, after returning to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center, President Donald Trump abruptly ended negotiations on a comprehensive response to the ongoing pandemic that has killed over 216,000 and infected over 7.8 million Americans.
Nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are nowhere near getting it under control:
- Cases are rising in 39 states, and nine states in the Midwest have set seven-day records for infections.
- According to the Department of Labor, 28 million workers are on unemployment benefits or are waiting to see if they get benefits, and over the next two months nearly 5 million people will approach permanent joblessness.
- Between February and June 2020, 15 million working people lost employment-based health coverage, according to the Commonwealth Fund.
He made this announcement even though earlier in the day, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell had stated that a large swath of the country needs stimulus, and fast. Chairman Powell warned of a weak U.S. recovery without sufficient government aid and said there is “little chance of overdoing” a fiscal response to the current crisis that still has millions of people unemployed and poor prospects for the future. Chairman Powell was nominated by President Trump to lead the Federal Reserve.
Since then, the Administration has sent mixed signals and said they were willing to sign into law drastically scaled back legislation.
Abandoning comprehensive legislation puts the economic and health needs of Americans in greater jeopardy.
- People who lost their jobs because of the pandemic are not receiving $600 in unemployment insurance (UI) because the federal pandemic UI benefit expired in July.
- People struggling to make ends meet are not receiving enhanced subsidies for housing and food assistance.
- Failure to pass comprehensive legislation leaves our country without a national coordinated response in fighting the virus and without tens of billions of dollars for testing and care.
- It also means we will not see greater use of the Defense Production Act to ensure we have the supplies we need and ensure that states are not bidding against each other and the federal government to acquire them under less than optimal circumstances.
- Workers will remain without a much-needed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard for safe workplaces and will continue to be exposed to risks in the workplace without being justly compensated with hazard pay.
- Displaced workers will continue to have great difficulty receiving COBRA subsidies to pay for healthcare.
- State and local governments whose budgets are severely straining under the weight of this daily battle and shrinking revenue base will be forced to cut services and/or raise taxes. State and local governments in red states and blue states alike are facing severe budget shortfalls.
Back in May the House passed comprehensive legislation through the $3.2 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800) that addresses all of these urgent issues and more. The Senate has refused to take up the legislation. In an effort to restart negotiations, on October 1st, the House passed The HEROES Act 2.0, a $2.2 trillion COVID relief bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi advanced this new bill in the hopes that it would bring the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell back to the negotiating table to pass a package aimed at helping workers, businesses, schools and communities who have been devastated by the pandemic. So far they have not.
Strong and decisive measures are needed to create a pathway for a speedy, equitable and sustained economic recovery. A scaled back approach will not be enough to restore our economy or our health.
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