With jobless Americans growing increasingly desperate and furious at congressional Republicans for skipping town for summer recess without approving Covid-19 relief, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday ripped the Trump White House for “abandoning” tens of millions of workers and children after her brief conversation with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows yielded zero progress.
“The administration’s continued failure to acknowledge the funding levels that experts, scientists, and the American people know is needed leaves our nation at a tragic impasse.”
—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
“This conversation made clear that the White House continues to disregard the needs of the American people as the coronavirus crisis devastates lives and livelihoods,” the California Democrat said in a statement after speaking with Meadows, an ultra-conservative former congressman, by phone for less than half an hour Thursday afternoon.
The call represented the latest failed attempt to jumpstart relief negotiations that collapsed earlier this month after White House negotiators refused to budge from their trillion-dollar price ceiling and opposition to the $600-per-week federal unemployment supplement, which officially expired on July 31.
The House and Senate aren’t expected to return to Washington, D.C. until after Labor Day, allowing another rent due date to pass without approving relief for the 40 million Americans facing possible eviction.
“The administration’s continued failure to acknowledge the funding levels that experts, scientists, and the American people know is needed leaves our nation at a tragic impasse,” said Pelosi. “Over 100 days after House Democrats passed the Heroes Act, another 4.4 million Americans have becomes sick and over 90,000 have died. Yet, Republicans continue to turn their backs on the American people.”
In her statement, Pelosi proceeded to slam the White House and GOP for:
- Abandoning healthcare workers, teachers and other frontline workers by rejecting our call for robust support for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments and saying that they should just go bankrupt;
- Abandoning teachers and children and their families by bullying many schools into reopening before it is safe to do so, which creates new vectors for the virus to spread;
- Abandoning the 14 million hungry children in America by ignoring the priority of food insecurity, offering just $250,000 when experts estimate that tens of billions are needed;
- Abandoning families, workers and small businesses by offering a grossly insufficient $16 billion for testing and tracing, when scientists say that at least $75 billion is needed to crush the virus and safely reopen schools and the economy, and not supporting OSHA protections for workers;
- Abandoning working families by providing nothing for rental assistance, when millions are at risk of eviction and homelessness; and
- Abandoning voters and our democracy by refusing to agree to the funding needed to ensure that no one has to choose between their health and their vote this November.
The effort to revive Covid-19 relief talks comes as the U.S. economic recovery is showing signs of faltering and millions of unemployed workers are worried about meeting basic needs in the absence of enhanced unemployment benefits, housing assistance, and additional nutrition aid. Late last month, nearly 30 million Americans reported not having enough food to eat.
Shawn Gabriel, a single father of two in Ohio, slammed members of Congress for failing to come to an agreement in an interview with the Washington Post.
“Most of them are rich. They don’t struggle. They get paid,” said Gabriel. “I blame Mitch McConnell the most. At least [Pelosi] was trying four months ago.”
A second round of stimulus checks and an extension of federal unemployment benefits have been sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk for 103 days.
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— Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (@RepMarciaFudge) August 26, 2020
Earlier this month, after Congress and White House negotiators failed to strike a stimulus deal, President Donald Trump signed several legally dubious directives purportedly aimed at providing rapid relief by extending the federal unemployment benefit boost at $300 per week—half the previous level—and staving off evictions.
“Millions more Americans are teetering on the edge of poverty and facing real danger of hunger, eviction, and crippling debt—yet Trump’s Senate allies want to keep playing a dangerous game of chicken with the economy.”
—Kyle Herrig, Accountable.US
But as of Friday, just five states—Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee—have begun paying out benefits under Trump’s makeshift unemployment program, which deliberately leaves out the poorest Americans by denying relief to those currently receiving less than $100 per week in state unemployment aid.
“When I figured out that executive order wasn’t going to mean squat for me, I cried,” Stephanie Hightower, an out-of-work home caregiver in Indiana, told the Post. Because Hightower is currently receiving just $75 per week in state unemployment benefits, she does not qualify for the $300 federal supplement.
Hightower said she supported Trump in the 2016 election but is now undecided.
In a blog post Thursday after the U.S. Labor Department reported that 1.4 million more Americans filed unemployment claims last week, Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute wrote that Trump’s unemployment directive “is doing more harm than good” and urged Congress to urgently revive the $600-per-week supplement.
“The extra $600 was supporting a huge amount of spending by people who now have to make drastic cuts,” Shierholz wrote. “The spending made possible by the $600 was supporting 5.1 million jobs. Cutting that $600 means cutting those jobs.”
Kyle Herrig, president of watchdog group Accountable.US, said in a statement Thursday that “millions more Americans are teetering on the edge of poverty and facing real danger of hunger, eviction, and crippling debt—yet Trump’s Senate allies want to keep playing a dangerous game of chicken with the economy.”
“The best they can muster from their vacation homes,” Herrig added, “is half-hearted half-measures that will simply not meet families’ needs during a worsening health crisis and recession.”