Durbin Slams Senate Republicans' Inadequate Coronavirus Response Legislation

Durbin To Republicans: Cutting Unemployment Compensation At This Moment In History Is Cruel, Inhuman, And Insensitive To The Realities These Families Are Facing Every Day

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today slammed Senate Republicans’ and President Donald Trump’s proposed partisan coronavirus response legislation, which was finally released last night – ten weeks after the House passed the Heroes Act and four days before expanded federal unemployment benefits are set to expire.  In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin called out Republicans’ plan to cut the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit to $200 per week.

Nationwide, as many as 30 million Americans are relying on enhanced unemployment benefits to put food on the table and pay for rent and health care.  Since the beginning of March, more than 1.7 million unemployment claims have been filed in Illinois, which is nearly ten times the number of claims processed during the same period one year ago.  As of July 4, 2020, more than 800,000 Illinoisans were claiming some form of unemployment benefits.

“Faced with the worst public health crisis in a hundred years… faced with the worst economic crisis in 75 to 80 years, the message from the Republican side of the aisle is think small – do as little as possible,” Durbin said.  “At a time when we have unemployment figures breaking all records, when we have ten times the unemployment claims in Illinois that we did a year ago… we instead are hearing from the Republican side of the aisle that the problem with our economy is not unemployment.  It’s the fact that the people who are unemployed are being given too much money… cutting unemployment compensation at this moment in history is cruel, inhumane, and insensitive to the realities these families are facing every single day.”

Durbin also criticized Republicans’ plan to give corporations federal liability immunity from lawsuits related to the pandemic.  Their bill would upend state laws, give businesses incentive to cut corners, jeopardize the safety of frontline workers and families, and risk further spread of the virus.  The liability immunity under this bill would last five years, from December 2019 through 2024. 

“The Republican corporate immunity bill does nothing to protect workers, improve safety standards, or give businesses incentives to take proper precautions to reduce the spread of coronavirus.  In fact, this bill does just the opposite.  It views workers and victims as the problem and sets hurdles that would prevent meritorious COVID-related claims from having a day in court,” Durbin said.  “The fact that Republicans are proposing five years of liability immunity for corporations while promising a few months of assistance for workers tells the whole story about priorities and values.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

Along with cutting the weekly federal unemployment benefit and giving corporations federal liability immunity from lawsuits related to the pandemic, the Republican proposal also:

  • Provides inadequate funding for nursing homes, hospitals, and COVID-19 testing.
  • Ties a significant portion of K-12 funding to schools reopening and includes zero funding for broadband internet.
  • Includes no rental assistance or continuation of the eviction moratorium.
  • Includes no funding for SNAP to ensure families don’t go hungry.
  • Includes no funding for state and local governments whose budgets have been gutted, and could force layoffs of essential workers such as teachers, firefighters, and EMS.
  • Bails out defense contractors, but includes no funding for the postal service or to safe-guard our elections.
  • Does nothing to help the millions of Americans who have lost their employer-based health insurance as a result of the pandemic.