EdAction in Congress

EdAction in Congress August 16, 2020

Administration’s response to COVID-19 threatens Social Security and Medicare

“Impasse,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) when asked about the status of negotiations over legislation to address the damage from COVID-19. It is unclear when—or if—negotiations will resume. Meanwhile, students and educators are suffering because of the administration’s failure to implement a coherent, comprehensive, science-based plan to combat the pandemic and reopen schools safely. President Trump’s unilateral, four-part response to the crisis falls disastrously short of what is needed.

Federal unemployment benefits for 30 million Americans are being cut in half—from $600 to $300 a week. The administration is encouraging states to provide an additional $100 a week, but few if any can afford to do so. Payments will take a few weeks to get going and could last just 5-6 weeks, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The so-called eviction moratorium neither protects renters from eviction nor helps those who have fallen behind on their rent—it is a memorandum that directs the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to “promote the ability of renters and homeowners to avoid eviction or foreclosure.” There’s no plan to help people get out from under months of payments.

The student loan moratorium extends the suspension of payments for four months (through December 2020) instead of a full year (through September 2021) as the HEROES Act would do. The moratorium does not apply to the 8 million borrowers with commercially held loans or Perkins grants.

Potentially worst of all, President Trump has suspended collection of the payroll tax that funds Social Security and Medicare for the rest of this year—a backdoor approach to dismantling both programs as we know them. He has pledged to cancel the tax permanently if reelected—a move that would put their very existence of these essential programs at extreme risk. It’s bad enough that seniors and people with disabilities are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using it as a subterfuge to undermine their financial security is unconscionable and unacceptable. TAKE ACTION

Cheers and Jeers

Rep. Marc Pocan (D-WI) sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) enumerating and urging support for NEA’s top priorities for COVID-19 legislation.

Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, held a remote hearing on safely reopening schools, in which Education Secretary Betsy DeVos refused to participate. “I find it hard to understand how Secretary DeVos can expect to lead our nation’s efforts to safely educate our children during this pandemic if she refuses to speak directly to Congress or the American people,” he said.

Rep. John Larson (D-CT), Chairman of the Ways & Means Social Security Subcommittee, vowed to stop President Trump’s plan to “dismantle and defund” Social Security in a video distributed to the House and posted on Twitter.


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