REAX Of Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy To The Inadequate McConnell/Trump COVID-19 Proposal
Since Democrats united around the Heroes Act, and it passed the House on May 15, President Trump and Republican Leadership opted for a “wait-and-see” approach, because they did not feel a “sense of urgency.” Well they waited, and the American people have seen the results of their delay. In that time, confirmed cases in the United States have more than doubled and 56,000 more Americans are now dead.
It is now clear that over the last 73 days while thousands more became infected and died, and families struggled and businesses failed, Leader McConnell and President Trump did not even get their own house in order to propose a path forward. The Republican proposal is disjointed, inadequate and a failure of leadership.
In the face of surging cases and death due to the President’s failure to lead, the Republican proposal offers only a paltry sum compared to the needs in this country to support increased testing, contact tracing and funding for vaccine production and distribution.
Funding for schools is completely inadequate and it is used as a stick to force our children and teachers back into the classroom as this disease continues to spread. And there is insufficient funds for improving access to high speed internet for rural areas like Vermont that would allow schools to have to distance learning as a realistic option this fall. It also provides insufficient funds for child care programs, without which working families, schools, and our economy simply cannot function.
It provides no new funding for state and local fiscal relief to help state and local governments that have been forced to take the reins of pandemic response in the absence of the President. Their budgets are stretched to the breaking point as revenues plummet and they struggle to support their people and the public servants on the front lines of this crisis. Without federal support, state and local governments have been forced to lay off 1.5 million of the very public servants countless Americans are relying on right now.
In just a few days, rent is due. Moratoriums on evictions are expiring across the country, stimulus checks have long been spent, and expanded unemployment benefits are about to run out, but there is no lifeline to the American people in this bill. Yes, it provides another one-time payment to certain individuals, but it slashes the unemployment benefits millions in this country rely on and it fails to provide the type of rental and mortgage assistance this country needs. Advocates have warned of an August “tidal wave of evictions,” and this only encourages the coming flood.
If all of this were not bad enough, the bill contains billions of dollars for programs unrelated to the coronavirus, including over $8 billion for what appears to be a wish-list from the Department of Defense for manufacturing of planes, ships, and other weapons systems, as well as $1.75 billion to build a new FBI Headquarters. What does this have to do with the immediate crisis? The bill provides nothing to address the long lines at foodbanks and shortchanges education and childcare, but we can shore up the defense industry? I am at a loss for words.
The best way to reopen the economy is to give the American people confidence that we can beat this virus. The Republican proposal is a recipe for continued failure. Failure to get ahead of this virus. Failure to get our business back open and our economy back on track. Failure to protect the American people. The wealthiest, most powerful country in the world should not be in the lead for death and incompetence. Democrats have offered a path forward for more than two months now. It’s time Leader McConnell abandon trying to cobble together his Republican only approach and meet us at the negotiating table. The country cannot wait.
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