Lawmakers call for universal basic income amid coronavirus crisis

Multiple lawmakers have proposed economic stimulus packages and universal basic income programs as the coronavirus begins to take a larger toll on the American economy. 

On Friday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), a 2020 presidential candidate, introduced a resolution that would provide an income of $1,000 a month to every American “until COVID-19 no longer presents a public health emergency.”

In an effort to stop the spread of the virus, the U.S. has imposed travel bans on several countries hardest-hit by the pandemic, and dozens of large events and conferences have been canceled or postponed. 

The stock market had its worst losses since 1987 on Thursday, though it’s unclear exactly how many workers will be affected. 

Last week, Republicans and Democrats united to enact $8.3 billion in emergency funding, largely dedicated to the health care concerns arising from the crisis. A second round of relief set to get a House vote Friday is focused on the economic fallout, providing financial assistance to those most directly affected by the outbreak.

It expands unemployment insurance, extending paid sick leave for workers forced to stay home and providing food aid to low-income children who might otherwise go hungry due to school closures. The bill also aims to provide free coronavirus testing for everyone showing symptoms, including the uninsured.

But some members say a universal basic income is needed to prevent lasting economic damage.

“The coronavirus pandemic has created a threat to the health and well-being of the American people, as well as to our country’s economic stability,” Gabbard said in a statement. “While some in Washington are focused on taking care of Wall Street, everyday Americans get left behind. That’s wrong. … Taking care of all Americans will stimulate our economy during this downturn.”

Economist Nouriel Roubini backed the idea in a tweet Friday, suggesting that it be financed with bonds and monetized by the Federal Reserve. 

Also on Friday, Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna (Calif.) and Tim Ryan (Ohio) introduced legislation to establish an emergency Earned Income Tax Credit. The bill would provide a payment of $1,000 and $6,000 to the over a third of Americans who earned less than $65,000 last year. 

“In order to alleviate the economic fallout of the Coronavirus, we must ensure hard-working Americans have money in their pockets and are able to pay their bills,” Khanna said in a statement. “We must soften the blow for workers as large gatherings and events are canceled and hours are cut. A payroll tax cut is not sufficient.”

Tags Coronavirus Ro Khanna Tim Ryan Tulsi Gabbard UBI Universal Basic Income

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