Amid all the chaos brought by an accelerating coronavirus pandemic, many working families are losing incomes, people are losing jobs, or their paychecks are being drastically reduced. Congress has been tasked with passing a stimulus bill that could give Americans supplemental income to help them weather the crisis, but the majority Republican Senate has balked at providing too much monetary relief to working people. Enter Bernie Sanders, who at the end of Wednesday’s Senate discussion, took Republicans to task for their refusal to give working people the help they need. To no surprise, #ThankYouBernie began trending on Twitter shortly after his impassioned speech.
"Now I find that some of my Republican colleagues are very distressed,” Bernie said from the Senate floor. “They're very upset that somebody who's making 10, 12 bucks an hour might end up with a paycheck for four months, more than they received last week."
Sanders was referring to the three Republican senators who threatened to delay passage of the stimulus bill over its temporary expansion of unemployment benefits, which they described as overly generous because they worried it would incentivize unemployment. "Meanwhile,” Sanders added, “these very same folks had no problem a couple years ago voting for a trillion dollars in tax breaks for billionaires and large profitable corporations."
Experts are predicting that the unemployment rate could be as high as 20 percent in the next few months. This recession will disproportionately impact the working class and low-wage workers. “One month could wipe out 10 years of progress,” in the fight against inequality, Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Atlantic. “A huge service-sector recession is coming, and we’re talking about more than 10 million jobs at risk that are often low-wage, low-benefit, or tip-based.”
The proposed $2 trillion dollar relief bill included one-time direct payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples, with $500 added for every child, and boosted unemployment insurance with an additional $600 per week for up to four months on top of what beneficiaries normally receive. Even this package pales in comparison to what a country like Denmark is doing. Denmark is freezing their economy and paying 75 percent of workers’ salaries, up to $3,288 per month, as long as companies keep them employed.
Sanders called out “some of [his] Republican friends” for having a “need to punish the poor and working people.” "When it comes to low-income workers, in the midst of a terrible crisis, maybe some of them earning or having more money than they previously made—oh my word, we gotta strip that out," Sanders continued. "You see because poor people are down here, they don't deserve, they don't eat, they don't pay rent, they don't go to the doctor, they're somehow inferior because they're poor, gonna give them less.”
In the end, the stimulus bill passed unanimously — without Sen. Ben Sasse’s amendment that would punish poor people by capping unemployment at their previous wages, which was rejected. It will now go to the House for approval, though it seems Twitter users are taking matters into their own hands and thanking Bernie for making a final push to support low-income households during an unprecedented crisis.