House Democrat calls for Congress to pass another Covid relief package
Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/AP

House Democrat calls for Congress to pass another Covid relief package

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a progressive freshman Democrat from New York, is calling on Congress to pass another Covid-19 relief package as the country marks 800,000 deaths from the virus and the threat of the Omicron variant only grows.

In a letter to House Democratic leadership, shared first with CNN, Bowman laid out why he believes another Covid relief package is necessary.

“We now lost 800,000 American lives to COVID 19 — double the number we lost in World War 2. This number is shocking, and cannot continue to climb without another federal intervention,” Bowman writes. “Our defense budget is ($)770 billion a year but we are not doing enough to defend ourselves against a global pandemic that is killing us directly and indirectly through the mental health crisis it has created.”

Bowman’s call for more congressional action to address the pandemic comes nine months after Congress passed its latest relief package. In that $1.9 trillion bill, Congress provided stimulus checks, an enhanced child tax credit, unemployment assistance, direct aid to states and municipalities, nutrition assistance, housing aid, tax credits for families and workers, investments in education and childcare, and health insurance subsidies. But most of these programs have deadlines for when they run out of funding and the pandemic continues to persist.

Bowman outlines that this new emergency supplemental should specifically address how the pandemic is affecting children and their mental health by including a bereavement fund for children who lost a primary or secondary caregiver due to Covid-related reasons, the cancellation of federal student loans, the cancellation of housing-related debt for past due rent and mortgage payments, the reinstatement of an eviction moratorium and foreclosure moratorium, and renewed funding in education among other provisions.

“The pandemic has and will continue to change us for years to come. We need to take action now, and the surest way to do that in Congress is to exercise our power of the purse and direct much-needed funds to our children, families, and communities,” he adds.

The push from Bowman also comes as Congress has engaged in new spending on multiple fronts amid a long list of legislative agenda items still on its calendar. Congress recently passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, and is in the process of trying to secure a separate $1.75 trillion social safety net bill though its exact price tag could change amid negotiations in the Senate. The chamber is also facing increased pressure to pass a sweeping elections and voting bill that has already passed the House.

When the March stimulus package passed, many Democrats said that more government action would be needed to shore up the economy, aid in the recovery and deliver relief to Americans who continue to be hurt by the pandemic.

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra told reporters on Tuesday that his department might need more money from Congress, as it has $10 billion left in federal relief funds for testing from the $50 billion made available from Congress back in March.

“Of the $50 billion that was made available for testing, there’s still about 10 billion that we have. Are we going to have more than $10 billion worth of needs and costs on Covid, especially in regards to testing? There’s a strong chance we will, depending on, again, where Omicron takes us. And so that gives you some sense about where those monies are,” Becerra said.

“I don’t know whether we’ll need more money or not,” Becerra added. “But what I can tell you is if we have Omicron the way we’ve had Delta, you can sort of see where this goes.”

Republicans, however, have criticized Democrats’ latest Covid relief package and government spending as partisan wish lists of liberal agenda items that are not sufficiently targeted, presenting an uphill battle for future Covid relief efforts.

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