"What a hypocrite. Elon Musk has received billions in corporate welfare from U.S. taxpayers," Sanders, a Vermont independent and former Democratic presidential candidate, said in a tweet on Friday. "Now he wants to stop 30 million Americans who lost jobs from receiving $600 a week in unemployment benefits, while his wealth has gone up by $46.7 billion over the past 4 months. Pathetic."
Earlier in the day, Musk had tweeted that he did not think another government stimulus package was in the "best interests of the people." If Congress passes additional aid, he said, it should only include direct cash payments to Americans.
"These are jammed to gills with special interests earmarks," he tweeted. "If we do a stimulus at all, it should just be direct payments to consumers."
Senate Republicans plan to unveil a $1 trillion relief package on Monday, kick-starting negotiations with Democrats.
The legislation is expected to extend — but reduce substantially — just-expired expanded unemployment benefits, send a fresh round of $1,200 stimulus checks to American adults earning less than $75,000 in August and funnel tens of billions of dollars in aid to schools and universities. The proposal will likely also set aside money for COVID-19 testing.
Musk, who's worth an estimated $67.7 billion, making him one of the wealthiest people in the world, built his growing empire -- including Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX -- in part with $4.9 billion in government subsidies, according to a Los Angeles Times report from 2015. That figure is comprised of a variety of government incentives, including grants, tax breaks, factory construction, discounted loans and environmental credits that Tesla can sell, and tax credits and rebates are given to buyers of solar panels and electric cars.
In the wake of the last global financial crisis, Tesla received a $465 million federal loan to design electric vehicles and build them in California. The company went public, repaid the loan and now employs about 20,000 people in just the Bay Area.
"We are honored to receive one of the first loan awards in this program," Musk said in 2009 when Tesla received the loan. "I'm confident we'll put the money to very productive use. We look forward to producing the Model S."