Statement of CSPI policy director Laura MacCleery
President Trump’s executive actions are only dubiously legal—at best—or are oversold. The eviction moratorium is not a moratorium but a mirage. Any unemployment benefits he touted are unlikely to reach workers, if at all, for weeks, and are financially impossible for cash-strapped states that would have to chip in for the benefits and set up new systems.These actions that spend money cross constitutional lines and are likely to be set aside by the courts.
Moreover, the press stunt by the President fails to provide workable or adequate solutions to the economic and humanitarian crisis of the pandemic. Although Members of Congress have gone home to await a deal, action from Congress is still urgently needed. Lawmakers should come back to town and visibly demonstrate that they share the sense of urgency experienced by millions of Americans on the financial brink.
Congress must increase support for anti-hunger and nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the school meals program that are serving families and children hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as fund personal protective equipment in schools. The House has already done so.
Against public health advice, the Trump administration and Senate Republicans are also attempting to force schools to reopen, by distributing more aid to schools that physically open If they really cared about children’s health and wellbeing, they would instead prioritize nutrition by providing school meals at no cost for every kid.
To help slow the spread of the virus, Congress should also enact a requirement for an OSHA emergency temporary standard to protect at-risk workers, including in schools and meatpacking plants. And Congress must extend paid sick leave protections to all workers to allow people to stay home when they feel unwell.
Trump’s political theater at a golf club in New Jersey was intended to make him seem like the problem-solver, when in fact crucial legislation including many of the above desirable elements was enacted by the House of Representatives nearly three months ago. In the meantime, Senate Republicans have dug in their heels, preferring to ignore the laws of economics by cutting unemployment benefits in a recession, and spending their energy on liability shields that would let businesses endanger workers and customers.
No President can wave a wand and make the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant economic devastation better. There is no substitute for real agreement among lawmakers in Congress, and this is not a time for magical thinking. Only Congress can act to provide the needed relief for American families—and they must do so now.
Contact Info: Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Richard Adcock (radcock[at]cspinet.org).