Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is looking ahead to the next few steps in the coronavirus pandemic response.
On Friday, Sanders unveiled his "Priorities for the Next Coronavirus Relief Package," proposing a number of relief measures from guaranteeing paid medical and sick leave to all workers to expanding food programs like Meals on Wheels.
The proposal unsurprisingly includes a major expansion of Medicare. "We were facing a catastrophic health care crisis before the pandemic, and now that crisis has become much, much worse," writes Sanders. The legislation would use Medicare to cover all health care expenses, notably including anyone who is sick, "regardless of immigration status."
In addition to further invoking the Defense Production Act, Sanders says payment on all rent, mortgage payments, and forms of debt should be suspended entirely, not just deferred during the pandemic only to cause "financial ruin" once they become due. Building on the one-time $1,200 payments, Sanders calls for monthly $2,000 payments.
The entire plan fits alongside policy ideas Sanders has touted throughout his presidential bid, but are ramped up in both scale and urgency now that the COVID-19 pandemic has quickly exploded to affect millions of Americans both medically and economically. This week's jobs reports showed that likely 3.5 million Americans have lost employer-provided health insurance since the pandemic began.
Bloomberg's Joe Weisenthal noted the similarities between Sanders' presidential platform and his latest proposal to Congress, but argued the ideas now sound remarkably "un-radical." The suggestions are "obviously on par with the scale of this crisis," says Weisenthal, and in line with the $2.2 trillion relief package Congress previously passed, "except on a sufficient scale to really counteract the damage."
"To prevent the collapse of the economy is far more humane and cost effective than rebuilding the economy after it collapses," Sanders told MSNBC. See Sanders' proposal, which does not yet have a budget estimate, here.