On Friday, talks between congressional and administration leaders ended with no resolution. It is unclear if or when talks will resume. As they struggled to agree on a response to the mounting damage from COVID-19, enhanced unemployment benefits for 30 million Americans expired and a moratorium that puts 12 million renters at risk of eviction ended. For 11 weeks after the House passed the HEROES Act, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wasted time and did nothing. On July 27, he introduced an inadequate, unserious plan. Now, he refuses to join the negotiations.
Officially called the HEALS Act—a cruel irony—McConnell’s proposal does too little, too late about what students, parents, and educators care about most: reopening schools safely and equitably, providing meaningful distance learning, and bridging the gaps in state and local budgets that have already cost educators their jobs. Key provisions of McConnell’s proposal include liability protection, pressuring schools to reopen without regard to safety, and voucher-like schemes that rob public schools and the students most in need of scarce resources. Republicans do not have a unified position and the administration is not on board with much of what McConnell has proposed, further complicating Democratic efforts to agree on a bill.
It is unacceptable that McConnell and the administration do not and will not accept the reality and gravity of the crisis and what is needed to address it. Students, educators and the country will continue to suffer as a result of their dereliction of duty. We will continue making the case for what is needed, but to save lives, stem the economic decline, and begin the healing, the Republican-led Senate and administration need to stop playing games and help craft a bipartisan bill that can pass both chambers of Congress. The road to recovery truly does run through our schools and campuses. We are at a critical point. There is no time to waste. Please call your senators at 866-374-7034.