Harris Outlines Priorities for Third Coronavirus Response Package
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday laid out her priorities for the Senate’s third legislative package in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States. As the legislation takes shape, Harris will fight for five main priorities on behalf of working families in California and across the country: direct, monthly cash assistance and consumer protection; support for workers and small businesses; expanded access to emergency assistance through FEMA; DHS prioritizing public health; and fair treatment of tribes and territories.
“The coronavirus outbreak has upended daily life for millions of families across our country and widened already existing fissures in our economy that for too long have kept working people on the brink of financial disaster,” said Harris. “As the United States Senate debates how best to address the coronavirus outbreak, I will continue to fight for a federal response that puts working families first and recognizes the dignity of every individual. We must affirm our commitment to keeping all people in America safe and healthy.”
Senator Harris’ Five Priorities
- Direct, Monthly Cash Assistance and Consumer Protection: For the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government must disburse direct, monthly cash payments to individuals. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, American families struggled to make ends meet, with 40% of Americans unable to afford an unexpected $400 expense. Putting money into individuals’ pockets on a monthly basis will put them on a stronger footing to withstand the impact of this crisis.
The package must also include strong consumer protection provisions including: suspending penalties for missed payments and any negative consumer credit reporting, prohibiting consumer debt collection and wage garnishment, and banning all evictions, foreclosures, and repossessions nationwide during the duration of the pandemic.
- Support for Working Families and Small Businesses: All workers need access to paid sick days, paid family, and medical leave, so those who are sick or need to take care of a loved one can do so without fear of losing their job or paycheck. Additionally, the U.S. must make available government-backed interest-free loans to businesses, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and independent contractors to cover operating expenses and payroll needs in order to keep their employees fully employed. Any employer or industry that receives government assistance must provide all employees with paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, comprehensive insurance coverage, and strong worker protections. Further, no employer receiving government assistance should be permitted to provide golden parachutes or exorbitant bonuses to its senior management or chief executive officer.
- Expanded Access to Emergency Assistance Through FEMA: The legislation must amend the Stafford Act as prescribed under the forthcoming Pandemic Disaster Assistance Act to ensure that individuals and families can receive direct assistance through FEMA during pandemics, particularly Disaster SNAP, Disaster Unemployment Assistance, and other assistance related to child care, funerals, and health care. Currently, individuals are only eligible for direct assistance during natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or floods.
- DHS Must Prioritize Public Health: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must prioritize the ongoing serious public health crisis and ensure funds are not used in any way that violates CDC recommendations or otherwise endangers public health, especially as it relates to detention, enforcement, and removal.
- Fair Treatment of Tribes and Territories: All rules and eligibility of assistance provided by the federal government to U.S. territories must be in parity with assistance provided to the States. Additionally, the federal government must make significant investments in tribal and native communities, particularly for tribal governments, Urban Indian Organizations, and the Indian Health Service.
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