Relief Welcome, but Congress Must do More to Respond to Pandemic

Statement of CSPI Deputy Director of Federal Affairs Colin Schwartz

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It is good news, albeit long overdue, that Congress is poised to pass an omnibus spending bill that provides about $900 billion in COVID-19 related relief and more than $1.4 trillion to keep the government open.

In addition to much-needed stimulus checks, the bill increases maximum benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for six months. It also provides desperately needed funding for schools, which have struggled to serve meals to children during the pandemic whether schools are physically or virtually open. And critically, this bill drops the ill-conceived stay-out-of-court card Republicans wished to extend to negligent businesses that infected or killed their workers or customers.

As welcome as this aid is now, and as promising as the two authorized COVID-19 vaccines appear to be, the pandemic is not nearly over. The omnibus bill takes us into the new year, but when the new Congress and new administration are sworn into office in January, neither branch should consider its coronavirus response work complete. For starters, workers in essential jobs need real safety protections, particularly in food and farm sector jobs such as meatpacking. And if we’re ever going to slow the spread of this disease, we need to implement expanded paid sick leave so people with active COVID-19 infections aren’t incentivized to come to work.