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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told Democrats that the fourth relief plan will be at least another $1 trillion to help Americans struggling because of the lockdown. But the most recent relief package included millions of dollars that will stay in Washington, including $25 million for the House of Representatives, which is primarily meant to help members transition to teleworking.
One critic of the $25 million for "salaries and expenses" (not the salaries of members of Congress, it's important to note) called it a "slush fund."
"Congress should not use this national disaster as an excuse to buy themselves new laptops and free technology to benefit their political careers," former Alabama state lawmaker Craig Ford wrote in an op-ed. "Every dollar should go toward helping fight this virus and supporting hardworking families that are struggling to survive during this crisis."
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who tried to force a roll call vote on the CARES Act, also criticized parts of the CARES Act.
"Here comes the next big spending bill," Massie wrote on Twitter on Thursday. "Again, Pelosi wants to try and keep Congress at home and pass it in an empty chamber with no record. If a majority of Congress can’t or won’t come to DC, we should temporarily allow remote recorded votes. Taxpayers need transparency!"
Rep. Rodney Davis, the ranking member of the Committee on House Administration, explained the purpose of the funds in an email to his fellow members of Congress.
"These funds will also be used to help facilitate the continuity of the legislative process during a time in which the social distancing guidelines placed on Americans create logistical challenges," Davis, a Republican, wrote. "Specifically, it will be used to help purchase IT equipment and services, including expanded customer service and video town hall capabilities, and emergency transportation and logistical support as needed."
A preliminary breakdown of the money is:
- $2 million for Office Supply Store computer purchases
- $8.8 million for MRA (estimated $20k each office) for laptops/video town halls
- $2 million for Committees for laptops
- $1 million for expansion of IT Customer Support and purchase additional equipment for computer imaging ($500,000)
- $10 million Sergeant at Arms ($5 million for emergency transportation; $5 million for unforeseen emergencies)