Let's start with an essential workers bill of rights, giving all the staff in hospitals and health care the protections and the compensation they deserve—including janitorial and support staff. It means making sure people providing food for all of us have those protections and compensation, including farmworkers. That goes for the transportation workers, delivery drivers, warehouse workers—all of the people who have kept this country running in this crisis. They need hazard pay and they need safety measures and equipment on the job, and they need the security of being able to organize their workforce. Because when we call them "essential workers," it means we can't continue to survive as a nation without them.
There needs to be more than just $1,200 one-time payments to most people, people with bank accounts and enough resources to have paid taxes in the past two years along with their citizen spouses. EVERYONE needs to have financial support to maintain their households and it needs to be sustained payments that last throughout the duration of this crisis. We need a People's Bailout, for "our working families, health workers, caregivers, farmworkers, other essential workers, Black and Latinx communities, undocumented immigrants, Indigenous peoples, or people who are homeless or housing insecure." That bailout needs to provide for short- and long-term recovery so that when we emerge from the pandemic, we're stronger. Direct cash assistance of as much as $2,000 a month, for everyone, is working for other industrialized nations.
It needs to include something like the Paycheck Guarantee Act in the House, or the Paycheck Security Act in the Senate, which goes well beyond the small business loan program in the CARES Act to cover part of companies' payroll costs. Too many small businesses have been shut out of the PPP program in CARES, and too many don't want to end up having to face repaying loans in two years, not knowing the depth of the hole they're going to have to climb out of at the end of this. That idea has had bipartisan support in the Senate, as well as the whole gamut of Democratic senators from Alabama's Doug Jones to Bernie Sanders. Airlines got grants in CARES to help do this. These lawmakers are arguing that everybody should get those grants.
In the meantime, the millions of unemployed, underemployed, and everyone else need to have security. They need access to affordable food—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program needs that 15% increase Senate Democrats tried (and failed) to get into the last, interim funding bill and. It also means canceling rent and mortgage payments, providing emergency housing assistance, and enacting a moratorium on utility shut-offs. That could require additional assistance to landlords and to utilities, but money's cheap to borrow for the federal government right now. It means expansion of work sharing so that workers even with reduced hours get their full pay. It also requires that student debt is canceled, there are strong debt protections, and while we're at it, Social Security is expanded. The debt protections need to prevent banks and other lenders from forcing borrowers who've had their loans/rent/mortgages delayed to pay them all back immediately. Debt needs to be canceled, not postponed.
This relief aid needs to be accessible to everyone in America, regardless of immigration status. It must include health care for everyone who is uninsured or underinsured, not just for coronavirus but for whatever medical emergency might arise for them during the crisis. This could be through temporary Medicare or Medicaid enrollments, at least through the duration of the epidemic. This requires ensuring that care and prevention measures are accessible to people who are incarcerated; that there's a pause in discretionary immigration enforcement; and that incarcerated/detained people who pose no threat to their communities are released.
There does need to be state and local aid, including to D.C., territories, and tribes so communities can continue to fund schools, mental health services, Medicaid, public health departments, firefighters and teachers, health and safety officers, roads and bridges, and more. But there needs to be direct aid to cities as well, to keep Republican governors and legislatures from punishing their urban areas that might be blue. Would Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp make sure that blue Atlanta got everything it needs? Probably not. There have to be protections built in for cities.
Businesses who've already received aid and will get more have to face restrictions. Corporate aid need to be tied to companies retaining their workforces, avoiding stock buybacks and CEO bonuses, and protecting worker rights. That also means strengthening oversight to prevent corruption, and ensuring loans to small businesses actually go to small businesses, not big franchises or private equity. There are some elements of that oversight in place and the overseers need a law that has teeth that they can enforce.
Finally (though there's always room and need for more), the United States Postal Service needs to be funded and the law that forces it to plow the bulk of its profits into an unprecedented 75-year pension fund repealed or rewritten to be more reasonable. While we're at it, let the Post Office conduct banking. Tie into that election protection that requires every state to conduct the remaining elections of this cycle, including the primaries and November's general election, by mail. The states will need some funding assistance to do that and the Post Office will, too. It's essential.
So over the next week, that's what Pelosi and team should be focused on. They're going to have some help due to the existence of the crisis. It's not going to get better—the early reopening in red states will ensure that. The latest infusion of cash into the small business loan fund is going to run out fast, and Republicans will be anxious to get more. Trump and his fellow Republicans are going to face even more dire polling. They're going to need to try to save themselves.
Now's the time for Pelosi to go as big as imaginable, so that when negotiating time comes around, she's got McConnell over a barrel.