COVID Relief Is Overdue

The health and financial toll that the COVID-19 pandemic is taking on our country is tremendous. I firmly believe that our economy won’t fully recover until we get COVID-19 under control. Moreover, while vaccines may be right around the corner, millions of Americans are suffering now, and have been suffering for months.

The number of new COVID-19 cases diagnosed daily across the country exceeds 100,000 daily, with the number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus exceeding a quarter of a million people, including more than 10,000 Pennsylvanians. Healthcare workers are still experiencing shortages of personal protective equipment that compel the re-use of equipment like N-95 masks and isolation gowns.

I believe that there’s a lot more the federal government should be doing now to get the Coronavirus pandemic under control.

Our nation’s financial situation is still terrible as well. While unemployment has dropped from its April peak, more than 11 million Americans are still unemployed, including roughly 4 million Americans who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits and have filed for federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (FEUC). In addition, the number of Americans employed part-time for economic reasons increased last month to 6.7 million, meaning that at least 18 million Americans and their families are still in dire financial straits. Five million of them will run out of unemployment benefits next month. But that doesn’t capture the magnitude of the problem - eight million Americans have been pushed into poverty, and 17 million children are now food insecure.

I believe American households and small businesses need and deserve additional COVID relief – and that another major COVID relief bill would help speed up our country’s economic recovery. Congress should act immediately to prevent more unnecessary suffering and death

Enactment of another major COVID relief bill is long overdue, in my opinion. I voted for such a bill – the $3.3 trillion Heroes Act – when it was approved by the House in May, but the Senate Majority Leader never took it up. I voted for a modified $2.2 trillion version of the Heroes Act passed by the House in October as part of an effort by House Democrats to negotiate a compromise COVID relief bill with the Senate, but that bill was never taken up by the Senate, either.

Each of the COVID relief bills passed by the House included another round of stimulus checks, extended federal unemployment assistance, better targeting of the PPP loan program for small businesses to local mom and pop enterprises, assistance to keep low-income renters and homeowners from foreclosure and eviction, and more help for healthcare providers, state and local governments, and schools. In addition, the latest version includes a program to provide financial assistance to restaurants to help them survive the pandemic.

In October, the Senate Republican Leadership brought up a $500 billion bill that would have provided more PPP funds, a $300 per week supplemental unemployment insurance benefit, and liability protections for businesses. It didn’t include another round of stimulus checks or assistance for state and local governments. This bill failed to get enough votes to pass. I strongly believe that the Senate Republicans’ bill was grossly inadequate; it wouldn’t meet the needs of millions of Americans.

Since then, talks on a COVID relief bill have continued sporadically. Clearly, the two sides are far apart – and, unfortunately, the negotiations have gone nowhere.

I understand how much many Americans are suffering great financial hardship as a result of the pandemic and desperately need relief. I will continue working hard and doing everything I can to enact another COVID relief bill as quickly as possible.