5/13/2020 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – As Americans face record unemployment and the biggest price jump in grocery prices in nearly fifty years, and as communities struggle to reopen due to a lack of adequate novel coronavirus (COVID-19) testing capacity, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is urging Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration to work with Democrats to provide the American people with much needed additional help.

“The Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans are dragging their feet over help for communities and working families.  They need to realize delaying aid during a public health crisis and economic crunch has the potential to make things far worse.  Working families, out of work Americans, and Main Street businesses can’t afford the price of Congressional Republican delay, denial, and inaction.  If Washington Republicans think the coronavirus and our economic problems are solved, I don’t think many Americans are going to buy that argument,” said Senator Reed.

But even as the COVID-19 crisis engulfs the nation, Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently admitted this week: “We have not yet felt the urgency of acting immediately.  That time could develop, but I don’t think it has yet.”

Rebuking that notion, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell today stated “the path ahead is both highly uncertain and subject to significant downside risks” and effectively urged Congress to consider another ambitious fiscal rescue package, warning that without additional support from the federal government, the U.S. economy could sink into a deep cycle of business failures, job losses, and bankruptcies nationwide.  During a videoconference chat with the independent, nonprofit Peterson Institute for International Economics, Powell stated: “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.”

“We need a pro-worker, pro-family, pro-health emergency rescue package that invests in people, Main Street businesses, and communities and keeps the heart of America beating strong,” said Senator Reed.  “America can and must do a better job combating COVID-19, expanding testing capacity, and helping people recover.  There is no excuse for the U.S. to lag so far behind other nations when it comes to effectively managing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19.”

Reed continued: “The U.S. has the money, capacity, and expertise to overcome this public health threat and economic challenge.  Focusing exclusively on saving the economy will not be successful because the economic pain we are suffering requires a strategic and effective scientific response.  This moment demands a balanced, data-driven approach that is simultaneously focused on saving our economy and effectively addressing our public health emergency.   This starts with transparent, accountable leadership, and also requires everyone to do their part and make sacrifices for themselves and their community.  I urge President Trump and Republican leaders to quickly get on board and come to the negotiating table so we can quickly hammer out a bipartisan CARES 2 rescue package and speed help where it is needed most.”

Senate Republicans have openly dismissed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) new $3 trillion aid package, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, but Senator Reed says that in America’s massive economy it takes a large amount of resources to truly bolster state and local governments, extend direct relief payments to Americans, and help businesses.

“We’re in emergency response protocol, and time is of the essence.  We should be speeding help to people and places where it is most needed and can do the most good.  The Republican position of delay and distract only serves to deepen fiscal pain across all fifty states,” said Reed.  “Congress must do its job and get help to people, states, communities, and those on the frontlines of this crisis.” 

Senator Reed initially called for a $750 billion state stabilization fund in the CARES Act, while Senate Republicans called for zero and tried to block the inclusion of state funds.  But Senator Reed enlisted the help of Republican state leaders who also sounded the alarm, and Congressional Republicans agreed this was a smart, cost-effective investment in staving off a deeper and longer economic catastrophe.  Ultimately, negotiators agreed to include $150 billion for the Coronavirus Relief Fund program in the CARES Act, with a state minimum of $1.25 billion at Senator Reed’s insistence.

Senator Reed is working to provide an additional $600 billion in Coronavirus Relief Funds to help states, cities, and towns in the next stimulus package.  Reed has offered new legislation, the State & Local Emergency Stabilization Fund Act (S. 3671), to provide state and local governments with additional resources and flexibility to combat COVID-19 while avoiding layoffs, deep cuts to essential services, and steep tax hikes.  This funding is essential to help Rhode Island with a range of initiatives: from education to public safety to economic recovery.

“This sounds like a lot of money, but in the kind of economic tailspin we’re seeing, we need to act boldly.  I’m for doing more, but I worry the Administration mistakenly believes we’ve done enough,” concluded Reed.  “If Republicans refuse to come to the table, it will leave states and communities across the country further stressed and unable to prevent further economic decline that will lead to even more suffering by the American public.”