Most of the attention has been focused on how small McConnell’s “Skinny Stimulus” is, relative to the bill the Democrats passed through the House back in May, but the core problem with the bill are the massive liability protections for corporations and health care providers. CNN provided a summary of the bill, and a comparison between this bill, the previous Republican effort, and the Democrat’s HEROES act:
Liability protections for employers
Would provide protections for employers against liability in any coronavirus-related lawsuits brought by workers. Employers would not be held liable unless workers' claims met a stringent test. ...
Liability protection for health care workers and facilities
Would protect health care providers from coronavirus-related liability actions unless the plaintiffs can prove gross negligence or willful misconduct.
By making it almost impossible for employees to hold companies accountable for unsafe working conditions, these provisions would encourage employers to reopen in unsafe ways and discourage them from spending money on worker protections. Aside from privileging corporations over workers, these measures would be counterproductive to controlling the spread of the virus and saving lives.
The liability shield for health care providers is particularly offensive as it has essentially the same effect as the liability protections for nursing homes which many, including Republicans who now support these protections in this bill, have attacked Governor Cuomo of New York (rightly, in my opinion) for implementing in the early days of the outbreak.
There are similar “poison pills” in other parts of the bill:
Would provide $105 billion in education funds, about two-thirds of which would be reserved for schools that reopen for in-person instruction.
By tying the education funding to schools reopening for in-person instruction, this bill would pressure schools to reopen, even if they could not do so safely.
In exchange for these provisions which would endanger lives and hurt the ability to control the pandemic, the bill offers only $300/week in unemployment benefits, half the amount in the CARES act or the Democrat's HEROES act. There is no direct stimulus and no relief to states to fund public health or prevent massive deficits and budget cuts across the country, not just in “blue states”. State budget cuts were a major factor in deepening and extending the Great Recession, and a lack of aid to state and local governments will raise unemployment and worsen the current recession:
“It will hold back the economic recovery if they continue to lay people off and if they continue to cut essential services,” Mr. Powell said during congressional testimony in June. “In fact, that’s kind of what happened post the global financial crisis.”
The economic risks are not confined to blue states. Idaho, West Virginia and Alaska, all Republican-dominated states, also face acute budget shortfalls as a percentage of output, based on estimates from Mr. White and his colleagues at Moody’s Analytics.
“It will be a drag on G.D.P. growth at a time when the nation’s economy is attempting to recover,” Mr. Sigritz said.
State and Local Budget Pain Looms Over Economy’s Future