Progressives on Friday said the passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act—which offers some measure of relief to working families while delivering trillions in bailout funds to corporations—was a first step to avoiding an economic meltdown that could render millions of Americans destitute, but urged Congress to pass another bill as soon as possible that centers the interests and concerns of the working class.
"No one should be left out or left behind." —Rep. Ayanna Pressley
"We just passed a necessary relief package for working families," tweeted Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "It's not perfect. We know that. But we're not done."
The CARES Act promises payouts of up to $1,200 for each American and $500 per child and expands unemployment benefits for those left out of work by the coronavirus outbreak. It also provides $130 billion for hospitals as the U.S. healthcare system struggles to manage the influx of patients with the virus, also known as COVID-19.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said she was supporting the bill "not because it's perfect or even sufficient, but because the lives and the livelihoods of Americans are at risk."
The legislation has been denounced by progressives as a cash giveaway to corporations and the rich. It contains a $500 billion slush fund for large corporations to be overseen by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin including bailouts for the airline and other industries.
In response to the passage of the bill—subsequently signed by President Donald Trump into law—Thea M. Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, wrote that the CARES Act's deficiencies, while not enough to urge the bill's rejection, are glaring.
"The single biggest tranche of money goes toward industry bailouts without adequate safeguards to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used to save the jobs and wages of typical workers, rather than to preserve the wealth of shareholders, creditors, and corporate executives," said Lee. "It also egregiously fails to include explicit protections for worker safety during this epidemic in industries seeking federal relief."
"Though the CARES Act will alleviate hardship for millions, it does not fully protect U.S. workers and their families from the economic consequences of the coronavirus, and it will not set the stage for the economy to reboot quickly once the public health crisis ends," Lee added.
CPC co-chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), in a statement, said she and her colleagues were focused on the next step.
"We are already at work immediately on the next package to ensure it includes provisions we fought for but did not get this time," said Jayapal. "This is a crisis of epic proportions and we must continue to do everything we can to respond with the scale sufficient to meet the suffering of people across our country."
In a statement from national policy director Angel Padilla, progressive advocacy group Indivisible called on the House to immediately return to work and put forth a comprehensive bill to help working Americans.
"The clock has already started on a fourth bill and we expect and demand that House Democrats fight to ensure that the needs of all communities are met," said Padilla. "Congress must work immediately to fill the gaps from the previous three COVID packages, and go further to reduce the inequality that put so many families at risk in the first place."
"Let’s not forget, COVID might be the current crisis we're facing, but these problems are structural," Padilla added. "We find ourselves here because of decades of failed policies that have deepened inequality, undermined worker protections, weakened our social safety net, and put profits over people. We will need big changes to address the current crisis and to prevent the next one."
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass), in a statement on the bill's passage, made clear she and her colleagues would work to ensure the next bill was comprehensive in addressing the concerns of working and marginalized people.
"Our work is far from over," said Pressley. "As Congress moves to begin working on the next relief package, I will continue to fight to center the most vulnerable members of our community. No one should be left out or left behind."