- More than ever, Americans are depending on Congress for COVID-19 relief.
- However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP seem to be more interested in aiding corporations than getting aid to places that need it most.
- Budget crises for state and local governments can slow the economic recovery, as we saw after the Great Recession.
- So Congress should include a substantial aid package to state and local governments in a new coronavirus aid bill.
- Margarida Jorge is the Executive Director of Health Care for American Now (HCAN)
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Americans are depending on Congress to take more action in the coming weeks to provide immediate relief from the tremendous consequences of COVID-19.
Yet, as the need for basic services like healthcare, unemployment insurance, and food assistance escalates, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP are more focused on providing big corporations with liability insurance and setting arbitrary limits on relief funding than helping average Americans respond to the worst health and economic crisis in a century.
McConnell is refusing to include adequate funding to help states and localities struggling with budget shortfalls due to COVID-19 in the next relief package, despite clear evidence that without it, states are not equipped to combat the pandemic or recover from economic downturn.
The GOP leader is claiming that the funds can’t be included because it would drive up the price tag on the bail and future generations would face too great a burden from more federal spending. But past recessions have shown that failure to adequately fund state and local governments hinders recovery and puts the future at risk for all of us.
McConnell’s concerns about future generations also ring hollow given the massive tax giveaways he’s supported.
He didn’t lament adding to the national debt when he passed the 2017 tax cut law law that gave away $1.9 trillion in tax breaks mainly to the rich and corporations. Nor was he worried about the future when he gave real estate tycoons and hedge fund managers $135 billion in the CARES package.
In the first three months of the pandemic, wealth for billionaires actually grew by $700 billion even as record job loss and economic hardship swept the nation.
While more than 50 million people have filed unemployment claims since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak and over 5 million have lost health coverage, the top 1% are getting another tax break averaging $1.6 million just this year. McConnell and his Republican allies slipped the giveaway into the last relief bill by re-opening a loophole that benefits 43,000 business owners making more than $1 million annually.
It’s the height of hypocrisy when Republicans in Congress wail about the deficit while handing out favors to the richest households and corporations while millions of their constituents are facing joblessness, hunger, and sickness.
That hypocrisy points to the bigger deficit in their priorities: instead of passing relief and recovery that is commensurate with what real people need to get through this crisis and for the country to beat COVID, these politicians are putting their rich donors and corporate shareholders ahead of the rest of us.
States need help, now
Now, state revenue is plummeting due to job losses resulting in less money from income taxes and diminished sales tax revenue at the same time the burden of COVID-19 is increasing. State budget shortfalls will force more cuts to jobs and to services at the same time that states are still struggling to contain the pandemic, deepening the crisis and putting recovery further out of reach.
We’ve seen this cycle before: during the last recession, failure to address the budget needs of state and local governments resulted in weak recovery and a longer recession, prolonged struggles for more people and diminished opportunities for future generations. A bipartisan letter from the National Governors’ Association noted that state and local governments require at least an additional $500 billion in federal funds for COVID relief. Yet McConnell has delayed taking action since May even as deadlines for unemployment insurance relief approach.
Hedge fund managers, real estate moguls, pass-through owners and corporate shareholders on the other hand aren’t worried about eviction, feeding their families, losing insurance or paying the bill because thanks to McConnell, the rich are getting richer off the pandemic.
If the federal government can afford billions in tax breaks for rich and corporations–even in a worldwide pandemic that has already killed more than 170,000 Americans–then we can also afford to give ailing families and the local governments they depend on the resources they need to combat COVID and recover quickly.
Americans are tired of lip service, delays, half-measures and excuses. It’s time for Sen. McConnell and President Trump to make the future of struggling families, seniors, people with disabilities, frontline essential workers and others a higher priority than their rich donors and corporate cronies.
Margarida Jorge is the Executive Director of Health Care for American Now (HCAN)
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).