Senate Republicans’ Proposal Would Be Disastrous for Workers While Protecting Corporations from Lawsuits

In response to Senate Republicans’ insufficient COVID-19 relief plan, Ana Maria Archila, Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy Action, issued the following statement: 

New York, NY— Last night, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans released their plan for a fourth COVID-19 relief package. After failing to take action while the COVID-19 crisis intensified across the country, the Republicans are coming to the table with a package that prioritizes protecting corporations from lawsuits. Their plan pays lip service to the pain and hunger of millions of people who have lost their jobs and businesses but completely fails to address the real hardship that people are facing with imminent evictions, insurmountable bills, the end of pandemic unemployment insurance, and continued threats to their health. Essentially McConnell and Senate Republicans have decided it is not their job to protect people’s lives and find a path for economic recovery that is humane and realistic. 

McConnell has claimed the package focuses on kids, jobs and healthcare, but it fails on all fronts.

The plan is disastrous for workers, reducing the emergency unemployment benefits from $600 to $200 per week. They make this drastic cut despite the fact that these additional benefits have been an essential lifeline to workers during this unemployment crisis that shows no signs of abating. Over 30 million workers lost their jobs during the pandemic and the republican plan proposes to cut pandemic unemployment insurance in a cruel effort to get people off the unemployment rolls, even if there are no jobs to return to, and even if workers will be risking their health in the process.

The plan is disastrous for small businesses. The package doubles down on the PPP program that has been abused by larger corporations and failed to reach the small businesses that truly need it, especially Black and brown owned businesses. The package ignores solutions that would help stabilize small businesses, like the Paycheck Security Act, which would ensure businesses can survive and keep their employees on payroll through the ups and downs of this pandemic. 

The plan is disastrous for kids and families. Republicans are proposing an awfully insufficient pot of money to encourage the re-opening of schools, while ignoring the rising numbers of infections across the country and the fact that more shutdowns will be necessary to control the spread of the virus. It proposes no measures to ensure that every student has the support they need to continue to learn  during the pandemic, whether at home or in a school environment. The plan makes no effort to ensure that the families facing hunger have access to food or protections from evictions. And finally, the plan fails to grant a single dollar to fund safe elections and ensure that in every community across the country, people will be able to exercise their right to vote safely.

The Republican plan is especially disastrous for Black and brown communities who have already suffered tremendous economic hardships, higher rates of infection, and devastating deaths. Black and brown workers make up the vast majority of essential workers –– from farming, to childcare, to nursing –– but the plan proposes no measures to protect their health, support their families, and recognize their sacrifice through hazard pay and childcare support.  Instead, Republicans plan to use this thie COVID relief package to drive almost 2 billion dollars to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), a rogue agency that is currently attacking people marching for Black Lives in Portland. 

Finally, Republicans seem to be comfortable allowing the collapse of city and state budgets. Without significant additional funding and fixes to the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Lending Facility, we will see massive layoffs of public sector workers and devastating cuts to all the services that communities need, at a time when people need services more than ever. 

Unsurprisingly, the Republican plan does address the interests of corporations by attempting to enshrine legal immunity for corporations failing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace into law. 

Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer, and all Congressional Democrats, must reject this plan outright and fight for a package that meets the scale of the crisis. 

In order to stem this crisis, the next COVID-19 relief package must extend Pandemic Unemployment Insurance at $600 for the duration of the crisis. It must put measures in place that allow people to keep their paychecks and benefits, even if their businesses are temporarily shut. It must include sufficient funding to allow a safe reopening of schools, and the safe and efficient administration of elections. It must provide pay hazard, PPE, and childcare subsidies for essential workers. It must fund elections to ensure that our democracy survives this moment. It must include economic relief to every person in this country, including cash and nutrition assistance, access to free COVID testing and treatment, and rent cancellation. Anything less will only prolong the health and economic crisis, and exacerbate suffering in every corner of this country.

Finally, we call on Democrats to demonstrate their commitment to focus every dollar of federal COVID relief on helping families and communities recover from this crisis. Any allocation of funding to agencies that criminalize our communities and abuse their power, including CBP and local police departments, does not belong in a COVID relief package and must be soundly rejected. 

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