Wednesday, March 25, 2020

-Sen. Mazie Hirono, voice of the people

The Senate was ready to pass the third coronavirus stimulus package, but then a few Republicans decided it’s too generous to Americans who will lose their jobs because of this pandemic.

  • Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer announced a deal on a $2 trillion rescue package late Tuesday night. The bill includes: direct $1,200 payments to many Americans, a $367 billion loan program for small businesses, $150 billion for hospitals and medical equipment, a $500 billion lending fund for large companies and municipalities, and a provision stipulating that those loans can’t be allocated to companies owned by President Trump, White House officials, or members of Congress. Democrats managed to get $400 million in funding for mail-in voting, which isn’t enough, but it’s a step in the right direction. 
  • Alas: Today, four Republican senators threatened to delay the legislation over the bill’s unemployment-insurance expansion, arguing it would encourage people to quit their jobs, which is a) not how unemployment works, and b) a bonkers understanding of what people would do during a pandemic. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) then said he would put a hold on the bill if Republicans didn’t drop their opposition. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) slammed the bill as “a drop in the bucket” for what New York needs, and urged the House to make adjustments before approving the package. 
  • Cuomo said today that New York is seeing early signs that social distancing has slowed the virus’s spread in the state, which currently has over half the country's confirmed cases. White House health experts have directed anyone who recently left New York to self-quarantine for 14 days. Governors from both parties across the country have pushed back on Trump’s calls to re-open the economy by Easter, noting that millions of people dying would actually be bad. Several governors have said they’ll keep stay-at-home orders in place, even if Trump prematurely rolls back national guidelines.

At the same time, Democratic governors are under pressure to limit their criticism of Trump, lest he punish their states by withholding critical support.

  • Trump’s attack on Cuomo at a televised town hall yesterday underscored the extra hurdle confronting Democratic governors: Trump’s ego. As one aide put it, “Everyone is negotiating the challenge of telling the federal government where they are falling behind versus making sure we meet the needs of our citizens by getting federal help, knowing that you risk it if you anger Trump.” Needless to say, this is not an acceptable way for a president to behave. Though Trump has formally declared California, New York, and Washington to be coronavirus disaster areas, the administration has yet to make disaster unemployment assistance available. Who made that decision, and how much was it informed by Trump’s personal grudges?
  • To back up his dangerous claim that the virus is under control and it’s time for Americans to get back to work, Trump and his allies have begun touting the fact that the U.S. has tested 300,000 people, which is more than South Korea’s tested. That raw number conveniently ignores a vast difference in population: South Korea has tested roughly one-in-170 people. The U.S. has tested one-in-1,090. 

The right-wing media has turned against Dr. Anthony Fauci, which will almost certainly influence how much Trump listens to him going forward. If Trump ignores the advice of health experts and rolls back national social distancing recommendations, he’ll then blame continued economic hardships on governors who maintain statewide lockdowns. A majority of voters are not yet aware of the catastrophic failure of Trump’s response, and messaging like this needs to flood every platform.

"We will not allow this pandemic to rob our young people of the futures and the economic opportunities they have been working to build."

Joe Biden, presidential candidate and our newest podcast competition, wrote a Crooked op-ed on the need to protect young Americans' economic future while fighting this public health crisis. Give it a read at Crooked.com  

Immigration advocates say the administration must release people from immigration detention facilities, after ICE reported a detainee had tested positive for coronavirus. The agency reported on Tuesday that a 31-year-old man from Mexico had contracted COVID-19 at a Bergen County, NJ, facility, the same detention center where a correctional officer tested positive last week. Advocate groups, including the ACLU, have filed lawsuits in multiple states seeking the immediate release of detainees held in open rooms without adequate sanitation or protective supplies, especially those at increased risk. Immigration detention centers, like jails and prisons, can easily become breeding grounds for the virus. Over half of ICE detainees have no criminal charges or detentions. 

Around 2,700 Americans are stranded in Peru, and the State Department has been slow to take action. More than 13,500 stranded Americans around the world have sought help through a federal travel-registration system after the pandemic closed down borders, and State Department officials say they’re “tracking” them. But past that, not much has happened: Officials said Tuesday they had helped bring home 9,000 Americans, while Germany says it has repatriated 120,000 citizens. In the absence of government guidance, Americans in Peru have begun organizing amongst themselves to trade information and medical expertise. Peruvian officials said that while the country’s flight capacity was limited, they weren’t sure why the U.S. hadn’t sent more planes.

Lucca, painted for Tommy Vietor 

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40,000 health professionals have signed up to volunteer in New York's Surge Healthcare Force.

The FDA is expediting the use of a blood-plasma treatment for seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

More than 200 banks have agreed to a 90-day moratorium on mortgage payments for California homeowners. (Bank of America has decided to die on this hill, all by itself, twirling its mustache.)

Lyft is offering free or discounted bike-share trips to front-line workers fighting the coronavirus. (Also, sanitizing the bikes between trips.)

A huge majority of Americans are taking social distancing seriously! (Here’s a guide to all of the cities and states that have issued stay-at-home orders.)

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