Democrats began responding to the “Phase 3” stimulus package introduced on Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticizing the bill’s focus on helping corporations.
“We are beginning to review Senator McConnell’s proposal and on first reading, it is not at all pro-worker and instead puts corporations way ahead of workers,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.
Phase 3 of the CCP virus legislation (pdf) comes a day after the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which includes free CCP virus tests, paid sick leave for some workers, and expansion of unemployment benefits.
The package currently being considered features rebates of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for those filing jointly. Families with children can receive $500 per child, with the amount differing the more an individual earns. Individuals earning more than $99,000 will not be eligible.
The Phase 3 package also includes $300 billion in small business loans for companies with fewer than 500 employees; a $50 billion bailout for the airline industry; and $150 billion to other industries including hotels, casinos, cruise lines, and shopping malls.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, emphasized getting money to families and small businesses.
“I would like to see more of the federal stimulus directed at the workers and small businesses who are getting hit the hardest during this public health crisis,” Cardin said in a statement. “We should focus on ensuring capital to pay your household bills, to pay your workers, to stay open, to stay viable.”
Cardin added: “If we are going to inject such a large cash infusion into the economy, Congress also should be providing more support for the state and local governments and the health care providers and emergency response personnel who have been on the front lines of this battle. They continue to deliver essential services under difficult circumstances, while watching their revenues drop off a cliff with the rest of the economy.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in an emailed statement more money needs to go into the hands of working families and that McConnell’s “plans fall short.”
“Any relief package needs to put workers first, and get help to the families and small businesses who need it quickly. We need to put money directly in people’s pockets—I have a plan to send at least $2,000 directly to every single middle-class and low-income person in the country, we must allow renters and homeowners to stay in their homes, and we need protections to ensure taxpayer dollars actually help workers—we can’t repeat the mistakes of past bailouts.”
McConnell previously told senators that they should stay in Washington, D.C. until a measure is passed.
Talking about the stimulus package Thursday McConnell said: “We’re doing both. We’re going to both provide direct assistance to individuals and to small businesses so they can stay open. This is a government imposed shut down if you will, to deal with this pandemic, and so the idea is to act quickly to send cash directly to both individuals and to small businesses.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) echoed fellow Democrats, saying that the measure should provide financial resources to individuals and small businesses first.
“How about the people that had to go home and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to close your businesses so you have no place to work.’ Those are the people on the front line. Sending me $1,000 is not going to help the economy, sending you and all of us who should have paychecks right now, sending the people that are getting social services, is not going to help because it’s not changing, except their social interaction.”
Manchin said he wants to see long-term help for small business owners, many of whom have been left with no livelihoods because of the pandemic.
“What we need to do is be focusing on the people that have really been affected. That’s the people on small businesses front lines that are sent home with no hope whatsoever and no unemployment compensation. I’m just not in favor of bailing out for the sake of bailing out people that got the greatest tax breaks in the world.”