Elizabeth Warren unveiled a detailed plan Monday for federal action to address the deadly coronavirus outbreak, including a call for a $400 billion fiscal stimulus package to protect the United States from the potential economic fallout.
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In the proposal, the Democratic hopeful and Massachusetts senator called on President Trump and Congress to provide all Americans, including the 27 million who lack health insurance, with free access to care for coronavirus, including any recommended vaccine once it’s developed.
That care would be paid for by a fund large enough to cover the costs of government-mandated quarantines or isolation for patients who cannot afford any bills, Warren wrote in the plan.
“People without coverage often do not seek the care they need and those with high deductibles delay important care,” she said. “And for those who are put under federally mandated quarantines, thousands of dollars in medical bills may plunge them into a serious financial crisis. Millions of Americans choosing not to seek care because of cost concerns will worsen the public health and economic effects of coronavirus.”
The virus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, has killed more than 3,000 people, with close to 90,000 cases reported worldwide, mostly in China. So far, there have been a total of 88 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., with two deaths, both of them were older adults with underlying health problems.
The novel virus has forced China, the world's second-largest economy, to all but halt its production of consumer goods like phones, clothing and automobiles. Chinese officials ordered mass quarantines in some cities and they placed severe restrictions on an estimated 780 million people, which raised concerns about the possibility of a recession.
“We could see a significant impact on Europe, which has been weak to start with, and it’s just conceivable that it could throw the United States into a recession,” former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said last week.
To insulate the U.S. economy from a potential slowdown, Warren said the federal government should enact a $400 billion stimulus package and announce a Federal Reserve emergency lending program.
The coronavirus has not yet been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization and has killed far fewer people than the flu, which has already caused an estimated 250,000 hospitalizations and at least 16,000 deaths this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But a past analysis by the Congressional Budget Office that Warren cited in her proposal suggested various pandemic scenarios could reduce U.S. GDP by somewhere between 1 percent and 4.25 percent.
In addition to propping up the government with new funding, Warren said she would make low- or no-interest loans available to all companies “negatively affected by supply chain disruptions, reductions in tourism, or other temporary coronavirus-related impacts, and that will use the funds to avoid layoffs and hours reductions, not for additional executive compensation, dividends, or share buybacks.”
“Companies across America are already struggling with supply chain disruptions, and we don’t want these temporary struggles to lead to widespread layoffs or for otherwise solid companies to go under,” she wrote.