Health Care

America Must Pull Together During the Coronavirus Crisis

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Congress has not yet gone far enough. Direct payments to families, a major tax cut, and easing the burden of rent payments are the necessary next steps.

The Senate has just passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which is Phase Two of Congress’s efforts to protect Americans from the coronavirus.

I expressed my strong concerns about parts of that bill earlier this week, but ultimately I voted for the bill because it contains necessary provisions that rush support into the hands of American families and frontline medical workers. While this bill doesn’t go far enough or fast enough, on the whole it helps our nation respond to this grave emergency.

Now we must look ahead to the next phase of Congress’s response and prepare bigger, bolder countermeasures to the economic troubles brought on by the China virus.

Here are three such measures that I am fighting to include in the next relief package.

Surge Cash to American Families, Loans to American Businesses 

Our top priority beyond suppressing the virus must be providing direct relief to Americans whose lives and livelihoods have been upended. Sadly, millions of Americans are losing shifts, being furloughed, or losing their jobs. They still have rent, mortgages, and car loans to pay. These Americans need our help now.

That’s why I’ve proposed immediately surging cash relief to American families in the form of a tax-rebate check delivered to their mailbox. My proposal would send $1,000 to every adult making less than $100,000 per year, or $2,000 to every family making less than $200,000 per year. Families would receive an additional $500 for each child and elderly or disabled dependent within the home. A family of four would receive a $3,000 check delivered to their mailbox under this proposal, to pay for rent, groceries, car loans, and other necessities of life.

My proposal would also temporarily expand such programs as unemployment insurance and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, to provide additional cash relief to Americans who lose their job or income due to the virus. Finally, my proposal would provide low-interest loans to any American business that needs it for the duration of this crisis. We need our businesses to keep meeting payroll, and this is the best way of accomplishing that goal.

Provide More Support to Families with Kids through a Payroll Tax Cut

No one is being hit harder by the crisis than families whose kids are out of school and who must worry not only about putting food on the table but keeping their children safe. Likewise, no group will be more essential to our recovery than families.

To spur our recovery from this economic emergency, we ought to complement our cash-relief and protection measures with a retroactive and immediate payroll tax cut for families with kids. My proposal is simple: Reduce a family’s payroll taxes by one percentage point for every dependent they claim. This tax cut would apply to families with kids as well as to families with an elderly or disabled dependent living at home. It would be retroactive for the 2019 tax year and remain in law after the virus crisis has passed, to assist with a full and speedy economic recovery.

Keep Americans Safely in Their Homes by Encouraging Landlords to Suspend Rent Payments

Direct assistance is a necessary first step to blunt the damage to America’s families, but it isn’t a cure-all. A wave of evictions is coming if Congress doesn’t act, as families and businesses exhaust their savings and cannot pay their rent. We cannot allow Americans to lose their homes during this period of disruption, especially since a successful public-health response to the virus requires us to stay inside our homes.

We can encourage landlords to do the right thing and help struggling tenants by offering them a deal: If they waive rent payments for at least three months, they can deduct the full amount of the rent they lost on their taxes, to include deducting losses from 2020 on their 2019 taxes.

This proposal would provide assurance to landlords that they won’t be penalized for doing the right thing by helping their fellow Americans during this, while allowing many American families to keep their homes.

All Together Now 

The China virus is a great threat to our nation, but I have every confidence that our citizens will rise to the challenge, just as we have time and time again. We face the immediate tasks of suppressing the virus, supporting frontline medical workers, patients, and families, and stabilizing the economy, but we must also seize this opportunity to build a nation that is more resilient to future threats and less reliant on adversaries such as China, which is responsible for this grave pandemic.

We’ll have many opportunities to accomplish these goals in the coming weeks, but only if we pull together as one nation. The proposals I outlined here are just the beginning.


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