Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders put forth a far-reaching plan Tuesday night that calls for at least $2 trillion in emergency funding—including for free healthcare and direct cash payments of $2,000 per month to every American—as a way to “mobilize on a scale not seen since the New Deal and World War II to prevent deaths, job losses, and economic ruin” caused by the deadly and growing threat of the coronavirus outbreak now sweeping the United States and much of the world.
“In terms of potential deaths and the impact on our economy, the crisis we face from coronavirus is on the scale of a major war, and we must act accordingly,” Sanders said in Tuesday night address. “We must begin thinking on a scale comparable to the threat, and make sure that we are protecting working people, low-income people, and the most vulnerable communities, not just giant corporations and Wall Street.”
The new plan—which Sanders set out in a live-streamed address just before polls closed in the primary voting states of Illinois, Florida, and Arizona—gives new policy details to his repeated call that the response to the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, be adequately robust and specifically targeted to help those who need it most and done in a way that centers both the short-term and long-term health of the nation’s people and its economy.
While former Vice President Joe Biden was declared the winner in each of Tuesday’s primary contests—adding to his already substantial delegate lead—the release of the new plan by Sanders made it clear that the Vermont senator still believes he has a role to play and a vision to share with the nation even as his prospects for winning the Democratic nomination continue to diminish.
“In this moment of crisis, it is imperative that we stand together,” Sanders said. Referencing people in the U.S. already out of work, those sick or fearful that they or someone they love could become sick, and everyone worried about their ability to get tested or treatment if they need—Sanders emphasized how it is now essential that the needs of working people and the most vulnerable in society are put before corporate interests or those seeking to profit in the midst of the society-wide shock.
The plan would guarantee that all healthcare needs related to the coronavirus would be free and available to all, including testing, any treatments, and ultimately—when available—the vaccine. The plan also calls for a dramatic investment in the public health system—including an urgent overhaul in terms of testing for the virus—and increased preparedness and support for frontline medical workers, hospitals, clinics, and community health centers. It would also mobilize the National Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, and military resources to build healthcare capacity nationwide.
On the economic front, Sanders’ plan would issue direct cash payments, in the form of $2,000 check to every American each month for the duration of the crisis. The plan would also establish what the Sanders campaign calls the “Emergency Economic Crisis Finance Agency,” which would be charged with handling the financial downturn unleashed by what is now a global pandemic.
“We must guarantee that everyone who needs care can get it for free, ensure that all workers continue to receive paychecks so they can make ends meet,” Sander said, “and stop giant corporations and Wall Street from profiting off the outbreak.”
Bernie's proposal also extends unemployment benefits to tipped workers, gig workers, domestic workers, freelancers & independent contractors to make up for the income they lose during this crisis. https://t.co/9G1x0tPJ1c pic.twitter.com/UcR6jqU2Pc— Warren Gunnels (@GunnelsWarren) March 18, 2020
According to the Sanders campaign, the three basic principles of his plan are:
- Empower Medicare to Ensure That Everyone Receives Health Care
- Establish an Emergency Economic Crisis Finance Agency to Manage the Economic Crisis
- Create an Oversight Agency to Fight Corporate Corruption and Price-Gouging
Each principle was layed out in detailed new plan—called “An Emergency Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic“—posted on the campaign’s website. Sanders also detailed the plan in his live address to the nation streamed Tuesday evening. Watch it in full:
In his remarks, Sanders said the nation is now facing a series of interlocking crises—including the spread of the infectious virus, an economic meltdown triggered by the outbreak, and a political disaster stemming from the mishandling of the catastrophe by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress.
While he admitted he did not have all the answers—and called on the American people to rise up and voice their demands—he said he would be bringing his plan to his fellow lawmakers in Congress immediately in an effort to urgently implement proposals in line with the policies and principles he has set forth.