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Joint Economic Committee Democrats Chairman - Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM)

At Weekly Democratic Presser, Vice Chair Beyer Emphasizes Economic Impact of the Coronavirus

“Yes, among many other things,” Beyer said when asked whether Democrats are considering direct cash payments to those affected as part of a fiscal response

WASHINGTON—Today, at the House Democratic Caucus weekly press conference, Congressman Don Beyer (VA-8), the Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) emphasized that the coronavirus isn’t just a public health crisis, but also an economic one.

After the press conference, when asked whether Democrats are considering direct cash payments to those affected as part of a fiscal response, Beyer said, “Yes, among many other things,” before explaining why the payroll tax cut President Trump is proposing will do very little to stimulate the economy.

Reporter: Some economists are calling for direct cash payments to people who’ve been affected by the virus. Is that something that’s on the tables?

Beyer: Yes, among many other things. Part of the dilemma with the payroll tax cut is that if you’ve lost your job, or you’re in the gig economy, or many other things, [then] you’re not going to get anything. Or if you’re with so many Americans making $25,000 or less, then it ends up being like $10 a week, [which is] not enough to really do anything. So among the many things that we must consider to get the stimulus going again, direct payments will at least be part of that.

Below are Congressman Beyer’s remarks as delivered.

The outbreak of the coronavirus is a public health crisis that has infected tens of thousands of people in the U.S. and abroad.

In Virginia, there are already five confirmed cases, two in my district. I found out a good friend of mine in D.C. is in the hospital right now with coronavirus.

These people, their families and everyone else who has been infected by this virus are very much in my thoughts.

Our overwhelming concern is about public health—lives are at stake—and this appears to be the most serious public health crisis in our lifetimes.

President Trump’s incompetent leadership on the coronavirus is really hurting our response, which in turn is hurting the economy.

As the number of cases proliferates and fear spreads, markets have plunged into chaos, and there are even more ominous signs that more might be coming.

Treasury bonds are now trading below 1 percent yields, that zero threshold is in sight, and it’s a strong indicator of possible recession.

Businesses are suffering, too, because of the coronavirus’s impact on supply chains.

Consumer spending, which as you all know has been a main engine of economic growth, is likely to fall as Americans are forced to cut back on their usual activities.

Service industries will be particularly hard hit.

The effects could ripple through the economy.

Goldman Sachs is now predicting ZERO economic growth for the second quarter.

Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has said that the coronavirus “could throw the United States into a recession.”

The Federal Reserve has little room left to cut interest rates after the cuts last year to compensate for the damages of President Trump’s trade wars and what they did to farmers, businesses and consumers.

Stopping all this depends on stopping the spread of the disease. That is where the priority must be.

Last week, we passed an $8 billion emergency bill to address, principally, the public health emergency, with investments for treatment and research.

Now we are in talks to figure out what we need to do next to further strengthen the response and prevent this outbreak from getting even worse.

So focusing on economic symptoms first is the wrong approach. If we just want to protect the economy, the very first thing we have to do is protect public health and the people directly impacted by the coronavirus.

This means workers who have to stay home because of a quarantine, because their child is ill or because their child’s school is closed, and make sure that they receive sick pay. We don’t want people to have to choose between a paycheck and preventing the spread of the disease.

It also means that people can get tested and, if necessary, get treated for coronavirus without having to fear about crushing medical debt. The last thing we want is people not to get tested because they can’t afford it, not to get treated because they’re afraid they can’t afford it.

It also means that ensuring that workers who are laid off because of the virus have access to unemployment benefits.

It means making sure that people, especially kids, who depend on social services for food—I think about all the kids on the Route 1 corridor in Alexandria, these kids depend on school breakfasts and school lunches—that they don’t go hungry.

It means supporting small businesses that are having to make do without employees and without customers.

That’s why we included some low-interest loans to small businesses in the emergency bill last week, but more can be done and there are a lot of good economic proposals out there.

The American people understand that there is a serious and growing threat to the economy, but they are still mostly concerned about getting sick.

Let’s be clear—the most important thing President Trump could do to protect the economy would be to lead an effective response to the coronavirus outbreak. His performance on public health and what happens to the economy are deeply intertwined.

That’s why I’m so concerned.

The White House has been discussing emergency measures, but so far the President’s economic efforts have consisted of bluff, bluster and confusing the public health messaging.

In a crisis as serious as this one, we need competent leadership.

One more thing before I turn it over to my colleague Dr. Ruiz.

27 million Americans don’t have health care coverage in this economy. Among the lower quarter, mostly our retail workers or food service workers, 50 percent don’t have health care and 43 million don’t have paid sick leave.

Bottomline: These are the folks who could make this epidemic truly disastrous if they are not paid for when they get sick, if they are not compensated for when they lose their jobs.

Bottomline: If we want to protect public health, if we want to protect the economy, from the coronavirus and future outbreaks, we need to make sure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care and paid sick leave.

We’ve been talking about paid sick leave for years and it’s really unfortunate that it takes a crisis like this to finally get the attention of the White House.

With that, let me turn this over to one of the most distinguished physicians in the U.S. House and in our country who has been giving us lots of good advice along the way—Dr. Ruiz.

Thank you.

Congressman Beyer is currently serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital. In addition to his role as Vice Chair of the JEC, Beyer serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.