Over the past three weeks, while the country has been engrossed in a national election, the COVID-19 pandemic has been worsening. Just last week the U.S. crested 180,000 daily new infections for the first time, after surpassing 100,000 barely a week prior. Hospitalization rates are spiking as well, rising to over 67,000 in the past few days. These numbers dwarf those from March and April of this year, when the first COVID-19 spike reached its peak. On March 27th, for instance, there were 17,330 new cases reported.
March 27th is also the day that the CARES Act was signed in to law. Nearly 8 months later it remains the only comprehensive economic relief package the federal government has delivered for the American people.
Despite repeated calls from labor and business leaders to pass another economic relief package. Despite dire warnings from financial experts on the costs of inaction. Despite record unemployment rates. And, yes, despite the rising number of infections and deaths, our government has failed to deliver the economic relief that our country badly needs. This is simply unacceptable. Congress and the administration must work to pass another worker-centric COVID-19 relief package NOW.
Any further delay, or partisan bickering, is an insult to the frontline workers who have been steering us through this public health and economic crisis. In the public sector and private sector, everywhere from hospitals to grocery stores, working people are putting themselves at risk for the benefit of all. Transportation workers have been at the center of these efforts, making sure that the goods and people that keep our country healthy get where they need to be. In aviation, public transportation, construction, maritime, school and intercity bus service, postal service, passenger and freight rail, ports, and manufacturing, our workers have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis. They have worked through the worst of this pandemic with no public health protections from the federal government. Thousands have paid for that inaction with their health, and thousands more with their lives. They have faced down economic uncertainty in their industries every single day, not knowing if or when they may be told to stop coming to work. But through it all, they have continued to show up and do their jobs because they know that America is counting on them.
Right now, those workers are counting on the federal government to do their part. The financial needs in transportation have been well documented. The airline worker payroll support program must be extended. Transit agencies, passenger rail, and commercial bus are in desperate need of federal support to avoid massive layoffs and service cuts. The United States Postal Service and State and local governments face severe fiscal crises and urgently need federal assistance; especially transportation agencies, where massive budget shortfalls could grind projects and services to a halt. Emergency funding is needed to maintain maritime and seaport commerce.
It is a great disappointment that we are still making this call to action in mid-November. In a rational world, Congress and the administration would have passed necessary legislation months ago to meet the public health and economic needs of the transportation industry as well the rest of our ailing country. Our past appeals for help have been met with an unending cycle of promises of imminent relief deteriorating into stalled negotiations and political posturing.
There is still an opportunity, however, for our elected leaders to deliver the relief that working people desperately need. The House has passed legislation that addresses the economic needs in transportation and other areas of our economy. The solutions are on the table. But it needs to happen now, during this lame-duck session. The country cannot afford to wait until late January to address these needs. The human and economic costs of inaction will grow more severe with every passing day and the critical infrastructure of transportation will not be able to meet the demand of vaccine distribution. Pass relief now. And deliver for the American people the help and hope that we will need during a dark and challenging winter.
Policy Statement No. F20-01
Adopted November 19, 2020