Schumer Remarks At Press Conference Calling For At Least $750 Billion In Federal Funds To Wage War Against COVID-19 & Economic Crisis Facing Americans

March 17, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke at a press conference, calling for at least $750 billion in federal funds to wage war against the coronavirus and the economic crisis facing Americans. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Okay, thank you all for coming. We all know how serious this crisis is; we know it in our states, we know it with our families. My wife and daughter, and daughter, and daughter in law, and grandson are all together in my house, each trying to work. People feel worried in a way that they never have in a very long time in this country. Having lived through 9/11, having lived through the crisis in the banking system in 2008, I think people are more worried about the future and their own health, their own economic viability today than they were in either of those crises. So we need to act, and we need to act quickly and strongly. We Democrats have proposed a big, bold, comprehensive package of what needs to be done right now.

We are looking first at the medical needs. You can put all the money you want out into the economy, but unless you actually solve the problem and reduce the number of cases, the number of people ill, the number of deaths, none of that will matter.

So, first and foremost, we need much more bolstering on the medical side. Obviously, we need the testing to work. Bust we need much more than that. We need hospitals to be well-prepared. They need equipment. They need masks. They need respirators. They need beds. We do not want to be in the situation like Italy, where there was not enough medical care for the ill people. And this has to be done quickly, firmly, and strongly, and that is number one in our $750 billion package that we have proposed. If you don't solve the medical problems, you won't solve anything else. And there's the problem of the workers getting to the facilities when their kids are home from school, when mass transit is not functioning. How do the people who work in the hospitals, who work with the doctors, who work at the facilities that make the products - how do they get there? All of that needs to be done, and that is the first thing we do in our package. Thant is job number one, the medical needs.

Second, are people who are hurting. I think about in my state Broadway, and what do I think of? Not the people who can't go to the shows, as much as they regret it, what about the people who collect the tickets, who clean the aisles, who work backstage, who are not working and not getting any income? We must do something for them quickly. We must bolster paid family leave, paid sick leave, and unemployment insurance, so that the millions and millions of people who are not working and who are not getting a paycheck can get one.

Third, we need to help small businesses. I've talked to countless small businesses in New York. They will go out of business in a couple of weeks if they don't get some help. Our proposal mainlines money into small businesses— quickly. They need it.

And, we ask for forbearance. The federal government and the banks should not be able to foreclose on a house if you can't pay your mortgage. And we've asked that anything that is federally-backed: student loans, mortgages—which are the vast percentage of mortgages—and small business loans, that there be a six month forbearance, they don't have to be collected.

Finally, we believe we have to mobilize the National Guard to help. Who will feed and watch the kids of the medical worker who has to go work? Who will make sure that food is delivered to an elderly person who can't go out? Who will make sure that kids get food who are not going to school and getting their school lunches? So we need to employ people to do that right away, but we also need to employ the National Guard.

So our legislation, the $750 billion, which may not be enough, deals with the immediate needs: the people who are hurting for health reasons; the people who are hurting for economic reasons, that they've been laid off, they're not getting paid, they can't work. Because their kids are at home and they can't work. This is job number one: targeted, bold, quick, strong aid. And that is the most important thing we can do. And I think that is the contrast between us and our Republican friends. They're worried about the big businesses, they want to pump some money into the economy, but if you don't solve the immediate health care and economic needs of the people who are hurt, the problem will just get worse. And the airlines will be in worse shape, and the economy will be in worse shape. So we must do all of those things, and do them quickly.

Today, I distributed a PowerPoint, which you all have, and a white paper, which is much more detailed than what I said.

By the way, on hospitals: if we don't get help to our hospitals right away, the large hospitals may survive, although not as well, but medium sized hospitals, small hospitals, rural hospitals will go under, they tell us, in a month or two. They need help right away, as well. Can't have hospitals permanently closed. So the needs are immediate and strong, and our package addresses them. I haven't heard anything coming out of Secretary Mnuchin or the president to deal with these immediate issues. That's job number one. There are other jobs, and we will certainly look at them.

In terms of pumping money into the economy, you can't do it without doing the things I mentioned. The things I mentioned come first. And it can't be a replacement for doing the things we're doing or it'll be a Sisyphean task, it won't solve anything. And it should be very robust, very robust, and be able to be repeated time after time if it doesn't work at the beginning, but we'll see what happens there, we're focusing on job one.

And one other thing I'd say, in terms of help for corporations, and I know that the president is talking to the airlines industry, he's talking to the travel industry, he's talking to the leisure industry, and we just want to make sure that whatever help we give them, workers come first. The vast majority of the aid should go to the workers, not to increasing executives’ salaries, not to doing the kinds of things that the companies have done, like buybacks. We would prohibit buybacks. We're also thinking that there should be, if they're going to get help, maybe their employees should get on the boards of these companies. Last time, the government took stock when they gave money to the banks. Well maybe that stock should go to the employees so they have some representation in these industries.

We want them to pay $15 minimum wage and we want to make sure that there are strict requirements to keep workers in their jobs, and not cut their benefits. The aid has to be workers first if we're going to help these industries, not what happened in 2008, where the big boys got helped and the workers and everybody else were left by the wayside.

So our plan puts working people, average, middle class families first. It puts the health of the country first, and then we will move on to other things.

One other thing: this should be a four-corners negotiation with the White House. The plan that Leader McConnell laid out will only delay things. For the Republicans to first put together their plan, then work it out with the White House, and then come to us, and then after that go to the House, will just slow things down. I believe the best way to get this going is a bipartisan way from the outset. We have our ideas, they have their ideas, but Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, myself, and the White House should sit down and come to an agreement rather quickly. The plan Leader McConnell laid out will slow things down in a significant and dramatic way, and it doesn't start out in a bipartisan way, and above all, this should be bipartisan. 

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