WASHINGTON, DC – With COVID-19 cases surging and joblessness on the rise, Senate Republican leaders unveiled a $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus package known as the HEALS Act that fails to provide assistance where it is most needed.  Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) issued the following statement:

“This lowball-Republican proposal is insufficient, irrational, and irresponsible.  It’s short on relief and would imperil public health and economic recovery.  After weeks of self-imposed delay, I’m glad a majority of Republicans have finally agreed among themselves on a proposal, but this fails to match the crisis that health experts and economic experts are waring us about.

“We’re not going to revive the economy until we suppress the virus.  To do that, the federal government must take urgent, coordinated measures and provide resources to stop the spread.  Slashing unemployment insurance and doing nothing when it comes to evictions and foreclosures isn’t going to work.

“But after repeated incompetence and self-interest by the Trump Administration, Americans face a surge of infection.  We’ve been forced to wait around while divided Senate Republicans dither and negotiate amongst themselves.  The limited scope of the so-called HEALS Act simply ignores reality and the magnitude of the long-term challenge we are now facing.  And even after Republican leaders delayed and wasted precious time and opportunity, the bill before us still seems to lack support from a simple majority of Senators. 

“Republicans have a lot of wish list items for lobbyists, but not a lot of targeted assistance for working families struggling just to put food on the table.  They need to recognize that an effective pandemic response requires coordination, cooperation, and a whole-of-government approach.

“We’ve got to be proactive, disciplined, and invest in what works to keep people safe and turn the economy around.  That means there’s got to be more of a public health component, including testing and tracing strategies, vaccine infrastructure, and hospital funding.  There’s got to be additional financial support and flexibility for state and local governments that have seen costs soar while revenues collapse, and additional assistance, especially for the hardest hit Main Street businesses.  And that dovetails with a plan to stop job losses, which means more help for out of work Americans who are unemployed through no fault of their own and who haven’t been offered their old jobs back.  It means doing more to keep families in their homes.  It means ensuring it is safe for kids to go back to school and that education and supports continue, rather than strong-arming school districts or incentivizing them to rush reopening in unsafe conditions, or even worse using the pandemic as a pretext to privatize education.  And we need to invest in safe, quality child care so working parents can afford to care for their kids when things reopen.

“This Republican proposal is incomplete and woefully inadequate.  With our nation on the brink, it’s time for responsible leaders to come together and hammer out and pass another comprehensive, responsible, and effective COVID-19 response and rescue package.”