Our country is suffering through the worst health crisis since the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, and the worst economic crisis since the 1929 crash and subsequent Great Depression.
Under a federal government emergency program, "Warp Speed," scientists are offering hope that promising vaccines will beat back coronavirus during the next year.
The economic damage America has suffered needs a similar major ongoing commitment from Washington.
Much has already been done to help keep our economy afloat during the past few months of coronavirus lockdown.
Congress has enacted over $3 trillion in support for the economy, including substantial help for both workers and businesses.
The Payroll Protection Act provided major grants and loans to small businesses to keep them afloat and able to retain workers. Yet even with this help 40 million Americans are out of work. The jobless are being helped with a $600-a-week federal supplement in addition to state unemployment benefits, but this program will expire in two months.
The economic situation shows no sign of getting better soon.
White House economic advisors project unemployment could top 20% before the economy begins to revive. And the Chairman of the Federal Reserve has pointedly noted that even though the Fed has already pumped in $2 trillion to save the financial system "It may well be that the Fed has to do more. It may be that Congress has to do more. . . . to help businesses avoid insolvencies and do the same for individuals. Keep workers in their homes, keep them paying their bills. Keep families solvent."
That’s very important advice from the world’s most powerful banker.
Congress and the White House should take it seriously and act on it. The key to achieving another round of federal stimulus relief will be a willingness of all parties to put aside political differences to deliver meaningful help to the country.
That means the Democratic leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives should drop its insistence on loading up the next relief bill with every item on the liberal wish list. The rescue package should be focused on continued funding of research efforts to defeat the Coronavirus and support for a strong economic recovery.
President Trump and the Republican leadership of the U.S. Senate have signaled their support for additional federal spending during this extraordinary crisis. Yes, the deficit and the national debt will climb with more spending; but failing to resuscitate our economy could have even more dire future economic consequences.
America’s economy right now is like a Coronavirus intensive care patient hanging on life support. This is no time to argue about how much more effort should be made to save the patient. Washington should not get sidelined by political arguments.
Here’s a prescription for dealing with the crisis:
- Authorize generous spending on speeding up development Coronavirus vaccines and the medical supplies to deliver them to every American as soon as the vaccines are ready.
- Provide another round of direct $1,200 stimulus checks to individuals and each dependent to help families pay mortgages, rent, and put food on their tables. The President has indicated he’s open to this proposal. The recently House-passed bill would step up the program from its original limits, but its worth the extra cost. Cash in the hands of desperate families is key to saving many from destitution.
- Renew and improve the Payroll Protection Act with additional funding and key reforms to its operation. Small businesses especially need more flexibility on how the grants they receive can be used. Keeping employees on the payroll won’t protect their jobs for the long haul if businesses are forced to close because other operating costs aren’t met.
- Along with reforming the Payroll Protection Act, convert the current $600 additional federal unemployment insurance supplement into an employment supplement. Instead of paying employees to stay home from their jobs, let’s help pay them a “job bonus” to get back to work.
- Provide substantial assistance to states and localities to help with the extraordinary costs imposed by the pandemic and to meet their operating costs. State and local tax revenues have dropped drastically over the past few months in every state. Helping them to keep providing critical services is not only reasonable, it’s necessary. That doesn’t mean writing a blank check to every state.
- Finally, finally come to agreement on a national infrastructure program, putting jobless to work rebuilding America.
These are extraordinary times calling for extraordinary measures. Washington must step up to the challenge — Now.
Former Senator Alfonse D’Amato served a distinguished 18-year career in the U.S. Senate, where he chaired the Senate Banking Committee and was a member of the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees. While in the Senate, Mr. D’Amato also Chaired of the U.S. Commission on Cooperation and Security in Europe (CSCE), and served on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The former Senator is considered an expert in the legislative and political process, who maintains close relationships with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. He is regularly called upon for his advice and counsel, and is recognized for his incisive analysis of national and international political affairs. The former Senator will share insights gained from his years in Washington “with a clear-eyed view of the political forces that shape the world we live in today.” Read Alfonse D'Amato's Reports — More Here.
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