Levin calls on Senate to pass COVID-19 relief legislation

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin | Ken Coleman

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) on Wednesday called on the U.S. Senate and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to work with the U.S. House of Representatives to pass extensive COVID-19 relief legislation. 

It comes the day after President Donald Trump called off negotiations and later changed course to pitch standalone relief bills aimed at certain industries. 

“I don’t really think it makes sense to cherry-pick one little part of a big complex picture of the American people,” Levin said during a press conference. 

Earlier this month, Levin and other House Democrats pushed through a revised $2.2 trillion stimulus measure called the updated HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions). It would allocate $1,200 stimulus checks to lower-income families and reinstate weekly $600 unemployment benefits that expired in July, among other items. 

The updated legislation includes an estimated “$7.4 billion in stabilization funds” for Michigan, with chunks of aid set aside for local governments, according to a release. For instance, the city of Warren would receive about $35.5 million. 

The package is $1.2 trillion less than the version the Democrats approved in May, but the GOP-lead Senate opposed the measure.

Trump on Tuesday tweeted that he had instructed GOP members of Congress “to stop negotiating until after the election” on additional COVID-19 relief legislation. He rejected the idea of the House Democrats’ updated proposal.

“I have asked Mitch McConnell not to delay, but to instead focus full time on approving my outstanding nominee to the United States Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett,” Trump wrote.

Later Tuesday, Trump switched course and said the House and Senate should approve $25 billion for airline industry support, plus $135 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which issues loans that incentivize smaller businesses to retain workers and keep them on payroll. 

Trump also said he’d sign a standalone bill authorizing $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans. 

“Are we willing to compromise? Yes. But are we willing to just help airlines? … No,” Levin said, when asked if he’d consider approving standalone bills.

He made the comments during a Wednesday press conference, during which he was joined by several proponents of the revised legislation. 

The revised relief package includes several allocations Levin has supported: additional funding to local and state governments, financial support for small businesses and more than $500 million of additional funding to food nutrition programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Michael Taylor, mayor of Sterling Heights, said during the press conference that his city would see an additional $35.1 million through the HEROES Act. The funds would go to help pay first responders and other essential workers.

“It’s vitally important that we get [a] package done … When I talk with residents, when I talk with small businesses, the most important thing for them is certainty,” said Taylor, a self-identified Republican who has endorsed Democrats Joe Biden for president and Gary Peters for re-election to the U.S. Senate. “In an uncertain future, what can we be certain about right now? And we don’t know, watching his Twitter feed, we don’t know whether he wants to negotiate, whether he doesn’t want to negotiate.”

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This year, Mothering Justice — a Michigan nonprofit that advocates for mothers — commissioned a statewide poll that observed coronavirus pandemic impacts on women of color. 

It found eight in 10 women of color reported being negatively affected by COVID-19. For women of color with children, four in 10 said they are essential workers. 

“These results, for us at Mothering Justice, only confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed broken social and economic systems, while also deepening racial and gender inequities,” said Eboni Taylor, the executive director of Mothering Justice who wants to see the WIC program modernized. “The updated Heroes Act would put attention to these issues.”

Survey: Michigan women of color harmed economically by COVID-19, 78% back stay-home order

Carey Denha, who owns concert venue Magic Bag Theater in Ferndale, said relief legislation is crucial for live venue operators like him, who can’t reopen amid COVID-19 health protocol that limits crowd sizes. 

“We are currently in a lose-lose situation,” said Denha, who said he contracted COVID-19 in March. “The [Paycheck Protection Program] doesn’t work for venues, because you can’t open. … We are taking on massive loans and debt to try to make it to the other side of this pandemic. Basically, it’s like taking on a second and third mortgage while being unemployed. We’re drowning.”

C.J. Moore
C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.