By: Andrew Koh
The legislative and executive response over the devastating dilemma of the Covid-19 pandemic has been met with a lot of public criticism from Americans who are struggling to survive in all aspects of life. According to the New York Times (2020), “over 8.2 million cases and 220,000 deaths have been confirmed in the U.S. and over 40.2 million cases and 1.1 million deaths worldwide.” Additionally, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (2020),” the total number of jobless claims as of the week of September 26th was over 25 million.”
The sharp tensions between Democratic and Republican leaders in both chambers of Congress, along with the inaction of the Trump administration to provide Americans with any substantial economic relief, has been further macerated by the increased tensions of an upcoming presidential election. As millions of Americans continue to wait for a second, comprehensive Covid-19 stimulus relief package, amid on-again off-again negotiations, the following examines the legislative timeline of public policy passed to assist citizens during this pandemic (CBS New York, 2020).
“Beginning with the creation of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on January 27 (publicly announced on January 29) and the declaration of a public health emergency on January 31, the federal government began to put in motion the executive, legal, and regulatory pandemic response procedures already on the books. It also banned foreign nationals who had traveled in mainland China from entering the country” (Wallach & Myers, 2020).
On March 6th, as at least 12 people in the U.S. died from Covid-19, “President Trump passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020, which provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding to support development of vaccines and treatment, grants for state and local governments, preparedness activities for U.S. government facilities, and humanitarian foreign assistance” (Wallach & Myers, 2020).
After declaring a state of emergency on March 13th and devoting all governmental resources and attention toward the research, treatment, and prevention of Covid-19, “President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, which provided paid sick leave, free testing, expanded food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requiring additional protections for healthcare workers” (Wallach & Myers, 2020).
After receiving a warning from the World Health Organization stating that the U.S. was on track to become the new epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the U.S. surpassing the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases compared to China, “President Trump signed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, on March 27th, to provide checks directly to individuals and families, a major expansion of unemployment benefits, money for hard-hit hospitals and health care providers, financial assistance for small businesses and $500 billion in loans for distressed companies” (Foran et al., 2020).
One day after infamously advocating for the “injection of disinfectant as coronavirus treatment during a press conference, touting the non-FDA recommended use of an antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine, and the report of the number of U.S. Covid-19 deaths surpassing 50,000, President Trump signed on April 24th the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, a nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus bill that included additional money for the small-business loan program, as well as more funding for hospitals and testing” (Mucarri et al., 2020).
On June 5th, President Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 as an amendment to the Paycheck Protection Program, allowing for “business owners more flexibility and time to use loan money and still get it forgiven as part of the Paycheck Protection Program, set up to help struggling small businesses with emergency loans during the pandemic” (Foran et al., 2020).
At the time of this posting, the primary focus of legislation to combat the multi-faceted catastrophe of the Covid-19 pandemic has been centered on offering economic relief. Other forms of legislation dealing with the guidance and recommendation of the CDC and WHO have been at the discretion of state and local governments. However, there has yet to be any legislative or executive action in regards to the mandatory use of protective face masks at the federal level, despite all of the scientific evidence and empirical data that supports the assertion that wearing masks has been the most significant and practical protocol used to reduce the transmission and spread of Covid-19.
2020. Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims. [online] Available at: <https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf> [Accessed 20 October 2020].
CBS New York. (2020, October 19). Stimulus Package Update: Is Time Running Out On A Possible Second Stimulus Check? Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2020/10/19/second-stimulus-package-update-negotiations-check-election/
CNN. (2020, October 13). Coronavirus Outbreak Timeline Fast Facts. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/06/health/wuhan-coronavirus-timeline-fast-facts/index.html
Foran, C., Fox, L., & Barrett, T. (2020, June 04). Senate approves House-passed Paycheck Protection Program reform bill. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/03/politics/paycheck-protection-program-senate/index.html
Foran, C., Raju, M., Byrd, H., & Barrett, T. (2020, March 27). Trump signs historic $2 trillion stimulus after Congress passes it Friday. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/27/politics/coronavirus-stimulus-house-vote/index.html
Muccari, R., Chow, D., & Murphy, J. (2020, July 08). Coronavirus timeline: Tracking the critical moments of COVID-19. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/coronavirus-timeline-tracking-critical moments-covid-19-n1154341
The New York Times. (2020, January 28). Covid World Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/coronavirus-maps.html
Shabad, R. (2020, March 05). Senate passes $8.3 billion emergency bill to combat coronavirus. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/senatepasses-8-3-billion-emergency-bill-combat-coronavirus-n1150521
Shabad, R., &; Edelman, A. (2020, March 27). Trump signs $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/house-gives-final-passage-2-trillion coronavirus-stimulus-bill-n1170281
Wallach, P., &; Myers, J. (2020, April 01). The federal government’s coronavirus actions and failures. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-federal-governments-coronavirus-actions-and-failures-timeline-and-themes/