Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke at a press conference announcing a new economic and community relief proposal to help states with coronavirus outbreaks. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
I’m proud to be joined by my colleagues who are here, who are leading the charge to help deal with this crisis and get the support they need to weather the public health crisis.
So, Senate Democrats, today, are introducing a series of measures Congress can take up to provide immediate relief and economic relief to working Americans during the coronavirus outbreak. We are just appalled that the administration really has had no plan. Here we are, it’s close to two months since we first knew about coronavirus. They have all kinds of problems, obviously, with testing, but they also have not come up with a plan to help people who need help.
We believe the help should be aimed at people, not at corporations. We believe the help should be targeted at the people who have suffered from this coronavirus problem—directly or indirectly. We don’ think they should just throw money out of an airplane and hope some of it lands on the people who are affected. So, we have targeted our relief. It’s aimed at people, not at big corporations, not at some kind of general, long-term economic plan that the president might want for other purposes.
The president seems to be more worried about the health of the big banks than the health of Americans. It seems that the president is more eager to help the oil companies than help the person who lost his job because of corona. We don’t believe that works. And so, the administration is proposing tax cuts and bail outs for the airline industry, the oil and gas industry—that’s just out of touch. The bottom line: we need to put people first.
And so, what we are proposing today is in two parts. One goes to the immediate needs of people who are suffering from this illness—directly or indirectly. The second goes to the kind of economic relief, which could be dealt with a little further down the road, that can help get our economy going, but it is targeted—and targeted at the people who are hurt and the places and people that need help. And that’s our message to the administration: focus. Focus on the problem, and then focus on the people who need help—not on your big cronies, and political friends, and other kinds of things that you want to try to do.
So, on the first part of it, the immediate help: paid sick leave. We think there’s a growing consensus that there should be paid sick leave. Unemployment insurance. If you’ve lost your job, it should be much easier and quicker to get unemployment insurance. How are you going to feed your family? Increased SNAP benefits. What about families who need to eat? And, school meals. Many of the kids who will have to stay home, their best meals are the breakfasts and lunches they get in the schools. And so, those are immediate relief to the people who need help, so that they can take care of their families and make sure that they get the help they need. Another part of that, of course, which relates directly to health needs, is we think all the testing should be made free of charge, so nobody wanders around spreading the illness because they can’t afford it.
But then, there are other kinds of longer-term economic relief—that is far better than a payroll tax cut or relief to big industries—that we are focused on. And they would be: improving community development block grant disaster relief, small business disaster grants, federal transit administration support for public transportation agencies, emergency mortgage relief (which might include some forbearance and rental assistance), more federal housing support, and emergency grant aid to help schools and childcare facilities stay clean and safe.
We’re telling President Trump, and we’re saying to the country: the best way to deal with the economic problems is focus on the people who have suffered from this virus—not some scattershot approach that the ideologues in the White House may want.
And I do believe that the House will pass some of these more immediate provisions that Nancy and I talked about on Sunday, this week. But many of these other things on the economic side, we will try to figure out the best way to get those done to get the economy moving again. Those needs are very, very important and immediate, but not quite as immediate as some of these health needs.
So, each of my colleagues will talk about different parts of this proposal and their views. And we’re going to hear from Senators Murray, Brown, Durbin, Leahy, Wyden, Warner, Cardin.