Pelosi begins drawing up next round of virus stimulus

Erik Wasson

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said increasing aid for states, bolstering worker safety protections and providing free treatment for Covid-19 will be priorities for Democrats in the next congressional response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pelosi and Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone said on a call Monday that the supply chain for protective equipment for medical personnel is stretched and the shortages may not be completely alleviated by the $2 trillion stimulus that was signed into law last week.

Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott said Democrats also want to mandate that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration set enforcible standards for guarding against airborne diseases for health care workers and expand regulations to cover more workers.

“It is clear we need to do more and that is particularly true in the case of protecting healthcare workers and frontline responders,” Scott said.

Pelosi has begun assembling proposals for Congress’s next round of stimulus legislation, just three days after the largest economic relief package in U.S. history was enacted.

On Monday’s call, Pelosi also said she wants the next bill to have another round of direct cash payments for individuals. She suggested that states, many of which face balanced budget requirements and large revenue shortfalls, would receive a significant boost in future legislation.

Last week, Democrats said they want the next bill to feature more money for hard-hit states like New York, increased food stamp benefits and expanded family leave for those caring for covid-19 patients. Many of the provisions were rejected by Senate leaders in the legislation that ultimately passed.

House Democrats plan a 5 p.m. caucus-wide call to discuss next steps and logistics for the next stimulus bill. The House is not expected to return to Washington for votes before April 20, but could return is there is a need to pass legislation, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told lawmakers Monday. Pelosi said she did not expect agreeent on a bipartisan bill before April 20.

There already appears to be appetite building in the Senate for another round of relief.

“If the crisis continues for substantially longer I have no doubt that the congress will have to act again,” Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz said Monday on Bloomberg Television.