Digital Forum: Phases 1&2 of the Congressional Coronavirus Response

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

On March 6th, Congress passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. An $8.3B emergency funding bill in response to the emergence of COVID-19 in the US. Funding mostly went to support CDC and state and local preparedness, but even as it was being passed, it was clear that this was not sufficient. 
At this point, there were under 100 confirmed cases in the United States. 
On March 18th, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which established free testing for COVID-19, paid sick leave for Americans impacted by the virus, and expanded unemployment insurance and nutrition aid. Again, even as this bill was being signed, lawmakers were already discussing a so-called "phase 3" bill, to address the radical economic fallout from the emerging pandemic. 
At this point, there were around 7,000 confirmed cases in the United States. 
Yesterday, March 25th, the Senate reached an agreement on a plan to provide a $2 trillion economic stimulus package, trying to provide relief to businesses, municipalities, and direct economic relief for Americans.
Yesterday, there were around 65,000 confirmed cases in the United States. 
We do not know how the Senate and House will compromise on their competing bills, but a few things are clear. We need the federal government to step up, and step in, and help the state government and the American people. 
I applaud the efforts to heed the lessons of 2008 in the emerging "phase 3" legislation and provide direct support to the American people. 
But we need more focus on defeating this virus, not just dealing with economic fallout. We need a joint task force with FEMA and DoD with the full force of both departments. We need full utilization of the Defense Production Act to ramp production of ventilators, masks, and use the defense logistics system to make sure the right states, get the right equipment, at the right time. 
And we need to include the international community—this virus knows no borders, and our response can't pretend as if we are walled off from the rest of the world.