As a result of President Trump’s incompetence, ignorance, and malice, our country is in the midst of unprecedented economic and health crises. The president urged states to reopen before it was safe to do so, and now, with tens of thousands of new COVID-19 cases daily, some states are being forced to close parts of their economy once again. Yet we only learn the details of their plans a mere days away from unemployment insurance expiring, guaranteeing unnecessary hardship for millions of Americans.
The failed public health response has led to re-closed businesses, continued layoffs, unemployment still more than 10 percent, and a recovery nowhere near what President Trump has promised. Millions of families, workers, and small businesses remain in dire straits, but the Senate majority leader has somehow decided that now is an appropriate moment to force tens of millions of jobless workers to face a huge cut in their income and states and cities to lay off teachers and cut back on key services. Leader McConnell’s proposal holds school funding hostage with demands to allocate critical public school funds to private schools, and that they fully reopen whether it is safe to do so or not. While the U.S. House of Representatives passed the comprehensive HEROES Act more than two months ago, it is telling that the president and his cronies have left the American people in a precarious place by waiting until the last possible moment to begin negotiations with House Democrats.
With no end in sight for this pandemic, it is crucial that Congress provide longer-term certainty to the American people and our communities, including the continuation of expanded unemployment benefits and robust state and local aid. Unfortunately, McConnell’s bills leave jobless workers and states and communities behind – while at the same time letting corporations write off the cost of executives’ fancy meals and drinks.
Given the infection spikes we are now seeing in states that rushed to reopen, it is essential that Congress safeguard public health by expanding access to coverage, guaranteeing all workers have access to paid leave, and funding vote-by-mail to ensure that every American can vote safely and securely. And in addition to supporting our schools, we must shore up our child care infrastructure to protect essential child care programs that are suffering financially from the ripple effects of the pandemic.
While President Trump is attempting to put the coronavirus pandemic in the rearview mirror for political purposes, it is time for the White House and Senate majority to come to grips with the very real depth of this crisis. Americans of all stripes–families, young people, small business owners, working parents, students, and educators—deserve at least this much.