Schumer Floor Remarks Providing Update On Coronavirus Response Negotiations And Outlining Democratic Priorities That Put Workers And People First

March 24, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor to provide an update regarding ongoing negotiations for Phase 3 of the coronavirus response legislation and outlined Democratic priorities, including a Marshall Plan for hospitals and putting workers and people first. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

I just finished a very productive meeting with Secretary Mnuchin, the White House Congressional liaison Eric Ueland, and Mark Meadows, the president’s acting chief of staff.

Last night, I thought we were on the five-yard line. Right now, we’re on the two.

As I also said last night, at this point, of the few outstanding issues, I don’t see any one that can’t be overcome within the next few hours.

Here are the things we are fighting for, we Senate Democrats:

First, a Marshall Plan for our medical system, our hospitals, our nursing homes, our community health centers, our whole health care system needs desperately needed dollars. They need them fast and they need them in a very large amount.

Hospital beds have to expand. Expanding capacity is not easy. The need for ventilators, for PPEs for the workers, for masks, even things as simple as swabs are not always available. And we in New York City and New York state and around the country hospitals will be overwhelmed. Our big hospitals, our medium-sized hospitals and our small hospitals. And the small and rural hospitals actually face the risk of closing if we don't help them. So we Senate Democrats have been pushing very hard for an increase—a significant increase in money for the health care system and we are very, very pleased with what seems to be moving forward in the bill—in the bipartisan bill that we hope will be brought to the floor.

Second: Workers First. The title of our Democratic plan has been Workers First.

We believe we have to put working people, families, average Americans ahead of anybody else. They are losing their jobs through no fault of their own. Their kids are staying home because there's no school. There are so many, so many problems that are befalling average people, and so we wanted to put them first. That's been our number one goal along with the Marshall Plan for hospitals. And this bill, as it comes forward as it's now at least being agreed upon has a lot of that.

It has unemployment insurance on steroids. This is a great plan. What it says is if you lose your job in this crisis, you can be furloughed by your employer. That means you stay on that employer's work list if you have health benefits with the employer, you can keep getting them. But, and most importantly, the federal government will pay your salary, your full salary for now four months.

We had asked for four months and four months looks like what we're going to get when we come to this agreement.

It will mean two things. Most of all it will put money into the hands of those who need it so much because they lost their jobs—as I said, through no fault of their own. So that is vitally important, and that will pump money into the economy probably in a better way than anything else could do it, but it also has the second benefit. It will keep companies intact.

The small restaurant owner, the middle-sized business, even the large businesses worry that if they just had to remove their workers, fire them because they don't have any money coming in, that those workers would scatter to the winds, they'd look for other jobs, and when, God willing, this awful crisis is over, these businesses would not be able to reassemble.

But with our plan, since they stay on the payroll of their employer as soon as the crisis is over, they all can come back together and that small restaurant, that middle-sized manufacturing facility, the service business will be able to reassemble quickly, and we can get the economy going again. That's another thing we've been fighting for.

We've been fighting very hard that any bailout fund, money to industries that have trouble, have real oversight and transparency. That's vitally important. We cannot have a situation where when a company is getting money from the Treasury or Federal Reserve that we don't know about it. And we've been pushing hard that any contract that the federal government makes with a company to give it loans that we know of that contract in a very short period of time, that we can examine it. We in the Senate, those in the House, the press, and the American public will see if these things are on the level because we all know there was a load of dissatisfaction with TARP. In addition, we're fighting for oversight, a new inspector general to be able to look into these contracts. We would like very much, and believe we should have, a congressional oversight board as well. And we're fighting for transparency, oversight, disclosure when the federal government gives corporations money.

We're also wanting to make sure that workers are put first in these situations so when there are direct federal grants and direct federal loans to these companies, they either have incentive or mandate to keep their employees and their benefits and we're making very good progress in that direction as well. Small business, we all ache for these small business owners, probably second to the people who have illness in their families, we ache for these folks. We know, my father was a small business man, he had an exterminating business, never too successful, he would pace the floor at 2:00 a.m. because he hated going to work. So I know what people go through.

You put your blood, sweat, and tears into your small business and all of a sudden it looks like it's blown away. Well, there's a very fine proposal, bipartisan, on small business that I believe will be in this package as well. So there are lots of good things here.

We all know that not everyone is going to want every provision. We all know that there are many things that so many of us want are left out, but we all know that we must do these things. We are not looking for things that are extraneous to this crisis, and I don't believe that they are in this package.

We are looking at things that deal directly with this crisis, and that's what we have proposed here as Democrats in the Senate, whether it be workers first, helping our medical system, providing oversight and transparency on the boards, helping small business, those are all directly related to the crisis. We need them soon. We need them desperately. In the last few days we have made huge progress in achieving these goals. And, again, I hope, I pray that we can come together very quickly and pass in large numbers a bipartisan bill that will help the American people who so badly, badly, badly need our help.

###