Ocasio-Cortez: Coronavirus Response Should Include ‘No-Strings’ Universal Basic Income Program

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 14: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during a news co
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said on Thursday that lawmakers should consider a swath of measures, including “no-strings” universal basic income (UBI) programs, as a response to the economic impacts of the Chinese coronavirus.

The freshman lawmaker weighed in on the ongoing debate over an economic relief package designed to combat the ramifications of the coronavirus. She said while proposals, like expanding unemployment insurance, are good, they are not enough and pushed for far more drastic, big-government measures.

“There are enormous sectors of our economy (tipped workers, freelance, shift workers) who may not be ‘unemployed’ but whose lives are still dramatically disrupted to the point of eviction, etc,” she said, suggesting a handful of proposals including extending Medicare and Medicaid coverage to all, freezing evictions, eliminating work requirements for assistance programs, and offering “no-strings” UBI programs:

House Democrats, under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), unveiled their own economic relief package on Wednesday, but Republicans are not on board. While the bill includes basics like free coronavirus testing, Republicans contend that their colleagues added elements that are unnecessary and ineffective while ignoring other solutions, like a payroll tax cut — a proposal House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) called a “non-starter.”

The Democrats’ package includes the expansion of food assistance programs and an emergency paid leave program.

“There’s a couple major problems with it. Here’s one glaring problem, under Pelosi’s bill the Social Security Administration will be set up to administer the paid sick leave program,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said on Thursday, adding that it will take six months and therefore not work in time.

“It will also hamper the administration from putting out Social Security for those who need it right now that are in harm’s way,” he continued.

“This will hurt the very population, it’s supposed to be helping,” he added. “It forces permanent paid sick leave for all businesses without exemptions and no sunsets.”

He added that there are “a few ideas that I think that we have brought to the table that can help — employee retention credit, making public health emergencies eligible for major disaster programs” and reiterated that Republicans stand ready to strike a bipartisan deal.

Negotiations are underway as lawmakers scramble to reach an agreement ahead of their scheduled recess.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has also signaled that the Senate remains “ready to consider a bipartisan, bicameral package if House Democrats return to the table & work with the President’s team.”


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