Statement of Lisa Gilbert, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Public Citizen
Note: U.S. Senate leaders from both parties last night announced an agreement on legislation to provide another round of stimulus to the U.S. economy in the wake of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. The Senate is to vote on the bill later today. This statement is based on available information about what is in the package.
While this agreement isn’t a perfect bill, we support its quick movement to provide essential resources to the American people as we confront the worsening pandemic.
The previous partisan proposal that came out over the weekend from the Senate Republicans was hugely corporate-focused, and today’s bipartisan compromise, while missing some key items, still makes important moves toward the goals laid out in the U.S. House of Representatives’ legislation of prioritizing families and workers.
The deal will give much-needed support for hospitals and health care workers on the front lines, including funding to purchase personal protective equipment, for scientists searching for a COVID-19 cure, for local schools and universities, for unemployment insurance and for housing.
It also includes a Congressional Oversight Commission and new Special Inspector General with authority to inspect records and determine the fairness of all distributed money, as well as an important conflict-of-interest provision in this era of corruption to ensure that bailout funds aren’t given to companies where a Washington official or the president has an interest greater than 20%.
That said, while it is a positive that tax credits are available to encourage employers to keep employees on the payroll, maintaining employment should have been a straightforward condition of receiving aid. The bill also is missing other bold affirmative conditions for receiving bailout funds that the House bill would have properly imposed on corporations, from stopping those that receive funds from lobbying to preventing them from giving golden parachutes to their CEOs.
And when it comes to fixing our democracy, the $400 million in election funding for states and localities in this bill is a step in the right direction – and nearly three times what Senate Republicans proposed in their weekend draft – but we know we need far more as we consider moving many Americans to vote by mail, to ensure that all voters can have their voices heard and votes counted in the November election.
There is a lot of work to do as we look ahead to the next stimulus package. For instance, we need measures to ensure immediate and free access to a vaccine, once one is approved. We urge Congress to join the country in working from home to make the next package a speedy reality.