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With lawmakers and Trump administration officials agreeing that their massive rescue package for a US economy reeling from the effects of the coronavirus outbreak and COVID-19 pandemic could reach $2 trillion dollars, discussions remain as to just what that legislation could look like.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has put out a marker, however, that Senate Democrats expect it to include funds to provide full salaries for up to six months to all Americans who lose their jobs, as part of a multi-part plan.
Washington policymakers have been scrambling to help the ailing economy since the stock markets began tanking weeks ago in reaction to the virus spread, with predictions the US unemployment rate could skyrocket to 20 percent as a result of forced business closings and quarantine conditions to enforce social distancing to try to stop the spread of the disease.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide have now topped 300,000. In the United States, the latest numbers are 26,908 sickened and 348 left dead.
To address the economic fallout, Senate Democrats have a plan that they call “Workers First,” Schumer said during a segment of Joy Reid’s MSNBC program.
“We want the help to go just to the people who use it, who are losing their jobs and have to pay monthly bills not just the one-time shot of money and then what do they do next month when they have a mortgage or a rent or food? So let me show, we have five major points,” he said. “There are many more but let me give you the five.
“First, we beef up unemployment insurance in a huge way that’s never been done before. We call it ‘unemployment on steroids’ or ’employment insurance.’ You lose your job because of this crisis or any other reason, the federal government will pay you your full salary for four to six months,” Schumer said. “We’re trying to get six for the whole time and that way you will have money every month, you will have money at the same level you were making before and you will be able to at least pay your bills and then if the crisis is over you’ll go back to your old job because you’ll have your bills, the company will just furlough you and that will work.
“Second, a massive amount of money for health care. Our hospitals are hurting. And they need huge amounts of equipment, they need huge amounts of masks and the workers in those hospitals, I’ve spoken to the head of the nurses union. They need all kinds of help,” he added. “They’re asking them to work longer hours. They’re asking them to work without the proper protective gear. Massive infusion of money to hospitals and by the way, to state and local governments which are hurting.
“Third and … any money that goes to these big industries has to go to the workers. We are going to demand of the airlines, you can’t lay off a single worker, you can’t cut the benefits, you can’t cut the salary, you can’t cut any of this for any worker,” Schumer continued. “We’re going to work on — I’ve been talking to some of my friends here in New York with these workers that they farmed out, you know, you clean toilets for minimum wage because it’s a contractor, not the airline, no way. And another thing, no buybacks. It just infuriates me, Joy, that these airlines between 2015 and 2019 did $45 billion in buybacks and now they say they have no money. Those buybacks went to the wealthy shareholders, not a nickel to productivity or et cetera.
“And paid sick leave, paid family leave. People need it. If you have to stay home because you’re sick or a loved one is sick, you ought to be paid and finally we’d like to help the students and so what we’re saying — we’re trying to get them working with Elizabeth Warren on this, a portion of your loans, not just the interest, but the principal is forgiven during this crisis,” Schumer added. “Students are losing school. They may have to go back for extra terms and extra courses. They should be made whole too. There’s many more things in this, but as you can see it’s a ‘workers first’ plan, period.”
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