Getting ready for a strong start after COVID-19 crisis

23 Mar 2020 | 11:52

    Nearly 50 members of Congress from the Problem Solvers Caucus — half Democrat and half Republican — spent the last week drawing up an initial roadmap with one overarching objective:

    We need an immediate rescue and revival plan not only to address the health crisis, but also to see the economy through the seismic earthquake hitting every American and every business today. If we take the right actions now, we'll have the tools to reboot the economy and get America back to work. This earthquake was not caused by the bad actions or nefarious actions of any American. Mother Nature threw us a huge curveball and now, together, we must overcome it. These are not bailouts to anyone or to any business. We are Americans standing together with our fellow Americans.

    First, we have millions of people who are suddenly out of work and with literally no income, spanning from hourly workers waiting tables to gig workers driving an Uber. The two weeks of paid family leave we passed into law will run out before we know it. That's why the Problem Solvers Caucus supports a significant expansion of unemployment insurance during the crisis, so we can get immediate, direct payments to all low-and-mid income Americans. Second, we need to keep as many people employed as possible, or, at least, furloughed with their benefits, so they can go back to work immediately when this is over.

    To make that happen, we should give businesses, of all sizes, who are willing to keep or furlough their employees, access to low-or-zero interest, long-term loans. We should provide tax incentives to those businesses that are keeping their employees with health care coverage through this crisis. These actions will build on the loans we've already provided through the Small Business Administration.

    Third, we need to give all Americans and businesses, who need it, the flexibility to pay their bills, including their rent or mortgage. Landlords and banks will need to get paid eventually, but Americans need a little breathing room, and delayed payment shouldn't affect credit scores -- or risk any business or anyone getting thrown out of their homes. We're glad the IRS delayed filing and payment deadlines, and that students have more time to pay their student loans -- all things we called for in our plan.

    Finally, it's essential that we plan now for how to get America back to work. Whether it's early April or early May, or checkpoints along the way, we should have a clear date to shoot for, with clear benchmarks for what needs to be in place to reopen America. It may be phased, and should be regionally sensitive, but, clearly, we need a concrete set of objectives developed and adopted now. To protect our families, these must reflect learnings to date to ensure they are fully deployed and available for future demands. That includes the following:

    • Rapid coronavirus testing with massive capacity, so we know who has the virus and who has the antibodies and are potentially immune from exposure.

    • Supply chains, delivery systems and documented inventories for personal protective equipment, from masks to ventilators, for frontline medical workers and others in need.

    • Expanded US-based manufacturing of vital medical supplies and equipment

    • Commitment to medical research for treatment and future vaccines. • A demonstrated mobile hospitalization surge capability to treat any future outbreaks.

    There's no sugar-coating it, we have a few tough weeks ahead of us. Our heart breaks for all those affected by the virus, and we must do everything we can to cure our country. But, if we work together, stick together, and put politics aside, we will get through it. The sun will shine through the dark clouds, and America will be stronger than ever, ready for an economic revival like we have never seen before.

    -U.S. Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Tom Reed