The next coronavirus bailout has to be for the people

The next coronavirus bailout has to be for the people

Congress is definitely not done with coronavirus response. Everyone but Mitch McConnell and fellow Republicans recognizes that, and that includes House Democratic leadership. Right now, they’re talking at least two more phases of stimulus to cover the urgent needs of actual people left out while the Senate was taking care of big business. For a little bit of happy news on that front, the cruise lines Donald Trump wanted to bail out aren’t getting bailed out, not as long as they’re sailing under the flags of other countries to avoid U.S. taxes, and health and safety laws and regulations. So there’s that.

What still has to be done, however, is a lot. On Wednesday, Pelosi said “This is not going to be the last bill.” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told the Democratic caucus that there will be not just one, but two more response bills. Among the top issues for House Democrats: funding for state implementation of national vote-by-mail, as much as $4 billion; emergency health and safety regulations for first-responders and medical workers; the full family and medical leave protections they had in their original bill; shoring up pension funds.

Pelosi told reporters that she laid out the following “wish-list” for the next phase with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in addition to expanded family and medical leave and the protections for health worker and pensions:

Increasing SNAP benefits by 15 percent
More funds to state and local governments
Free coronavirus testing, doctor visits and follow-up treatment
Equitable funding for Washington, D.C., residents. “It doesn’t make any sense,” she said of the Senate’s decision to treat D.C. as a territory rather than a state, which deprives the district of at least $750 million more in emergency funding. “It wasn’t an accident. It was a decision. Let’s correct that.”

She also said “I don’t think we’ve seen the end of direct payments.” The House bill had the same amount as the Senate bill in this one-time payment, but also suspends work requirements for people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and had $1.4 billion for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance, to the Senate’s $900 million. The unemployment insurance program boosts in the two bills are basically equivalent, except for $1.36 billion in workforce training for state and local programs, compared to $360 million in the Senate bill.

The direct payments are also problematic because they won’t go to everyone. Foreign workers who still pay federal taxes, for example with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number rather than a Social Security number won’t get the reimbursement. People who don’t have bank accounts and don’t have direct deposit will have to figure out how to cash a check. Homeless people need a place to receive the checks.

This fact sheet provides a side-by-side comparison of what the House had it in its bill versus the Senate version. That’s an adequate response for where we are right now in the crisis. Two weeks, a month from now, even more is going to be necessary. Right now Republicans might be in denial about that. That’s not going to last.

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