Durbin, Colleagues Reintroduce Legislation to Help Developing Nations With Access to COVID-19 Vaccine and the Pandemic Economic Fallout

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), today introduced the Support for Global Financial Institution Pandemic Response Act.  The legislation directs representatives from the United States to multilateral development banks, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), to help developing countries as they fight COVID-19, ensuring financial support for a robust international response to the global public health pandemic

Specifically, the legislation directs the Treasury Department to use its vote at the IMF to free up considerably more Special Drawing Rights (SDR) for member nations.  Special Drawing Rights are supplementary foreign exchange reserve assets defined and maintained by the International Monetary Fund.  An increased SDR allocation is a low cost, strategic way for the international community to extend a financial umbrella to poorer nations.  

“To date, the world has lost more than two million people to COVID-19 and brought global economies to a halt.  Mitigating the long term impacts of this global public health and economic emergency will require a robust and coordinated international response—one that the U.S. was noticeably absent from under the previous administration,” Durbin said.  “The Biden Administration has an opportunity to reclaim global leadership, working with multilateral institutions and our allies, to effectively guide the world through the worst economic disaster in generations.  By deploying and empowering U.S.-backed multilateral financial institutions such as the IMF to solve the urgent global crises of poverty, hunger, and disease, we can also strengthen our own economy here at home.”

“What this crisis shows us is that we have got to act as a global community—we truly are all in this together.  That means protecting the most vulnerable amongst us,” said Sanders.  “In the face of a horrific pandemic and a worldwide recession, we cannot allow poor countries to forego the health and economic wellbeing of their people as they try to pay off unsustainable debts.  We cannot allow these countries to be deprived of the resources they need to purchase vaccines, food, medicine, protective gear, and medical equipment.  I am proud to join Senator Durbin in advancing this legislation to have the IMF provide robust financial support to the developing world at no cost to American taxpayers.  This is the very least we can do to prevent an unimaginable increase in poverty, hunger, and disease that threatens hundreds of millions of people.”

“President Biden understands that this is a global health emergency. COVID-19 has no borders. While we work to protect Americans here at home, we also need to engage outside our country to stem the economic and health impacts of this pandemic,” said Cardin.  “Beyond a moral obligation to help others in a time of need, what happens beyond our shores has an impact here in America.  The United States must take this opportunity to reassume a leadership position in the fight against this deadly virus and all the economic repercussions that have come with it.”

“As long as the virus is spreading anywhere, it threatens people everywhere.  We can only end this pandemic by joining with others in fighting the virus at home and abroad. The Trump administration all but ignored the need for a global response.  That was a failed strategy, and the virus is raging in many countries whose economies and health systems are under enormous strain,” Leahy said.  “Fortunately we now have an Administration that is being guided by public health experts, and this bill will enable the international community to help shore up the economies of countries that have been hard hit by the virus.”

Earlier this week, Durbin and Sanders led a group of their colleagues in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen regarding the urgent importance of helping stem the devastating economic impact of the COVID pandemic on the world’s developing countries and America’s trading partners.

U.S. Representative Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL-04) plans to introduce companion legislation in the House.