Schumer Floor Remarks Outlining New Proposal To Provide At Least $750 Billion In Federal Funding To Wage War Against Coronavirus & Economic Crisis Facing Americans

March 16, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor, calling for swift passage of the House-passed coronavirus legislation and announcing that Senate Democrats will lay out a further proposal of at least $750 billion to wage war against the coronavirus and the economic crisis facing Americans. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

First, let me thank the staff who is here today under these difficult circumstances: here at the desk, the Sergeant at Arms, the doorkeepers, the police officers, and the many others who are here today. We thank them, as always. They are the unsung heroes of the Senate.

Now, as the Senate returns this week in a time of extraordinary challenge for our country, COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, continues to spread rapidly. In less than a week, the number of confirmed cases in the United States has grown from around 1,000 to well over 4,000. The actual number of cases is probably higher.

Here in the Capitol, public tours are suspended and much of our staff is working from home. In a further effort to limit interactions, Senate Democrats will not be holding our regular caucus lunch, which will instead be conducted by conference call.

In my home state of New York alone, there are nearly 1,000 confirmed cases. The State is doing everything in its power to treat those afflicted, to prepare for future cases, and limit the spread of the virus. Residents in the tri-state area—New York, New Jersey, Connecticut—are now under restrictions—new restrictions—on gathering at bars, restaurants, and other public places. I urge everyone to stay safe and to listen to the advice of public health experts: practice good hygiene, follow the recommendations issued by state and federal governments about public gatherings, and please, please, stay home if you feel sick.

As these important safeguards go into effect, there will be economic consequences. Businesses will face shortfalls, employees will not be able to work, families will bear the responsibility of childcare as school closures mount. For millions of families who live paycheck to paycheck, for parents who have to choose between keeping their jobs or taking care of their kids, and for so many others—a small business owner who has no liquidity even though it was a healthy business a few weeks ago—these are all very, very difficult times.

The Congress and the federal government as a whole must take steps, immediately, to provide relief to those American workers, families, and businesses.

Last Friday, the House of Representatives passed legislation to provide for free coronavirus testing, extensions of paid sick leave, food assistance for school kids and the elderly, and assistance to states overburdened by Medicaid costs, and expanded unemployment insurance.

The Senate should take this bill up and pass it immediately, by consent—today. We cannot wait.

It was my preference to keep the Senate in session over the weekend so that we could’ve passed this bill already, but Leader McConnell regrettably and almost inexplicably decided to send everyone home and then call them back today. Many members on my side of the aisle were extremely upset by Leader McConnell’s decision. There should be no further delay in the passage of this legislation.

Because surely, we must move on to other necessary measures to address the coronavirus and its widening impact on the medical, economic, and social fabric of the country. Testing capacity and public health infrastructure, like hospital beds, masks, ventilators and more, remain a very urgent priority. Economic assistance for working families and small businesses must continue to be a focus of our efforts, as well as broader macro-economic policies. Families will be without salaries, small businesses without liquidity, and they will need help immediately.

As early as tomorrow, I will present a series of proposals to Congressional appropriators that Senate Democrats believe should be part of the next bill to address the coronavirus. In consultation with the ranking members of the committees of jurisdiction, we are proposing an immediate and initial infusion of at least $750 billion to wage war against COVID-19 and the economic crisis it is now causing.

The proposal will get money directly into hands of American people and, among other priorities, include federal funding to:

·       Address hospital and treatment capacity issues;

·       Expand Unemployment Insurance and Increase Medicaid funding;

·       Ensure that everyone can afford treatment for coronavirus

·       Provide Immediate Loan Payment Forbearance for ALL Federal Loans, student loans, mortgages, small business loans and others, & Moratoriums on Evictions/Foreclosures;

·       Deliver Immediate help to small businesses;

·       Fund emergency child care, especially for health care workers and first responders;

·       Help schools with remote learning;

·       Provide assistance to keep public transportation running;

·       Address public health and economic needs in Indian Country; and

·       Utilize the Defense Department to provide personnel, equipment, supplies, and critical response capabilities to support on the nationwide response. 

There will be other proposals that will be needed and we will talk about as well. But in sum, we need big, bold, immediate federal action to deal with the crisis. The kinds of targeted measures we are putting together will mainline money into the economy and directly into the hands of families that need it most. Importantly, this proposal will ensure that our medical professionals have the resources—including physical space and equipment—they need to provide treatment and keep Americans safe.

Our proposal does not include every possible measure, nor must it. There will be multiple legislative vehicles to respond to the coronavirus. But in the near-term, our proposal takes a comprehensive approach to dealing with the issues that workers and families and the health of America face today.

I strongly urge my House and Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle to review our proposal and incorporate our ideas into the next bill we consider here in Congress.

Now, the road ahead will be difficult. The disease will continue to spread and test our capacity, as a Congress and as a country, to respond with the necessary urgency, foresight, and cooperation.

Leaders in public office, from the President of the United States on down, must communicate clearly and honestly, and set aside politics on behalf of the public good.

Leaders in Congress must work together and with uncommon speed to respond to a set of national challenges unlike any we have faced in the recent past.

Public health officials and researchers and doctors on the front lines must continue to do the difficult and noble work they are now engaged in. We are all in their debt for their courage, their dedication, their duty. 

And the American people must hunker down and follow the guidance of experts until the cloud of this disease has passed. And it will pass.

But until skies clear, we must all pull in the same direction and do what is necessary to ensure the health, safety, and the security of the American people—today, and in the weeks and months to come.