Digital Forum: Phase 3 of the Congressional Coronavirus Response

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

WHERE THINGS STOOD WHEN PHASE 3 BECAME LAW:
 
Congress passed two bills before the current “Phase 3” coronavirus response. 

On March 6th, when there were under 100 cases of COVID-19 in the US, Congress passed a $8.3B emergency funding bill that mostly supported CDC and state and local preparedness.

On March 18th, we had ~7,000 confirmed cases in the US, and Congress passed a ~$100B bill, which established free testing for COVID-19, paid sick leave for Americans impacted by the virus, and expanded unemployment insurance and nutrition aid.
 
But cases continued to skyrocket, and one of the quickest economic downturns in history was starting to take hold. 

A little over a week later, Congress moved to pass the largest stimulus bill in our nation’s history, the $2 trillion dollar CARES Act. 
 
WHAT IS THE CARES ACT, AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR ME: 
 
By the time the CARES act was signed last Friday, we had a bit over 100k confirmed cases. 

The CARES Act deals primarily with the economic impact of social distancing, and tries to address the massive financial struggle American workers and businesses are facing. 

The largest category of expenditure, about $560B in the bill supports individuals, as it should, with expanded and more generous unemployment benefits, a limited moratorium on evictions, and the $1,200 check for all Americans making under $75,000 that we have heard so much about. 

The next largest category was money for big businesses, with about $500B—this was an area where Democrats flexed their muscles, which led to an Inspector General, restrictions on stock buybacks, and a ban on profiteering by Administration and Congressional officials with the loan money.

Small businesses were a major focus as well, receiving ~$370B in funds, primarily available through a $10k emergency grant and up to $10M in forgivable loans. 

Thankfully, our hospital and public health system also saw a boost of funding, to the tune of about ~$150B. Most of that is going directly to support hospital systems, but there are significant outlays for the National Strategic Stockpile for ventilators, masks, and other critical equipment.

Finally, there was money directly allocated for state and local governments. I share Governor Coumo’s concern that this bill is sorely lacking in this area—though Albany expects a $15B shortfall due to the virus, they are only getting a small fraction of that in federal support. 

WHAT WE MUST DO GOING FORWARD:

Since “Phase 3” has passed, coronavirus cases have more than doubled, to nearly 220k.

Nancy Pelosi and the many other Democrats are already calling for “Phase 4” legislation, aimed at recovery. 

That is a good idea—it is necessary. 

Unfortunately, this bill does not do enough for the American people. COVID-19 cases are continuing to grow exponentially, jobless claims are soaring past 6 million, and public health officials are predicting potentially hundreds of thousands of deaths. 

In Congress, I would fight to:

  • Make the $1,200 payment recurring
  • Expand the eviction moratorium to cover all Americans
  • Send significantly more money to the state and local governments bearing the brunt of this crisis
  • Mandate federal procurement and coordination of our national industrial base to ensure we have the personal protective equipment and ventilators needed by our front line healthcare workers.