The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus (PSC) is one of the first congressional groups in Washington to provide a comprehensive playbook to reopen America shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.
The caucus released its Reopening and Recovery “Back to Work” Checklist, which the 50 members of the House says provides a data-driven proposal centered on addressing issues in healthcare and the economy that will help reignite the economy.
The proposal focuses on issues including public health, economic rescue and stimulus policies the caucus wants to see incorporated in Washington’s plans to address the COVID-19 crisis.
Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Josh Gottheimer said a “clear checklist” is needed to reopen the economy safely. The North Jersey district Gottheimer represents has been one of the hardest hits in America, with more than 22,000 cases and 1,100 deaths.
“As I’ve seen first hand, this virus knows no bounds, which is why this bipartisan ‘Back to Work’ Checklist prioritizes public health, while helping our local businesses, hospitals, and front-line healthcare workers,” stated Gottheimer.
The PSC checklist starts with the premise COVID-19 will be an issue needing to be dealt with until a vaccine is available. The checklist offers solutions to mitigate its impact and preparing to handle new cases.
Readying for a Vaccine
In order to prioritize the development of therapeutics and a vaccine still many months away, the PSC wants to start stockpiling materials, including syringes and other materials, to effectively deploy the vaccine once it is operational.
While awaiting a vaccine, the caucus is calling for a robust, rapid testing system to be in place, including both proven testing for those who have developed antibodies and sound diagnostic testing to monitor the virus.
Mass testing with rapid results will require the Food and Drug Administration to approve testing methods like the agency currently has, while life science companies will need to continue to ramp up all forms of rapid testing, the caucus noted.
In addition, a contact tracing federal database is needed to track and distribute test results, similar to how measles and other vaccinations under existing legislative structures are currently tracked.
In any reopening, the PSC want’s schools to have access to protective masks for all K-12 school children and teachers. In the same vein, businesses will need to configure layouts and workspaces to maintain required social distancing along with appropriate personal protection equipment resources, cleaning, and sanitization to ensure a safe workplace is maintained.
In regard to an economic recovery, among the programs the PSC will prioritize in the short term are establishing resilient supply chains; expand financing for business to reopen; direct investments into states, counties, cities, towns and tribal governments; workforce development to address unemployment; and rental, commercial and home ownership market stabilization plan.
Gottheimer will be able to raise the issues directly with President Donald Trump as he was recently named to serve on a Presidential bipartisan task force advising the White House on the reopening of the nation’s economy. The second term Democratic said he accepted the appointment as it gives him the chance to make the case directly to the President on the issues his district is concerned about.
Looking at the longer term, the PSC will advocate for infrastructure investment addressing known existing infrastructure shortcomings but strategic long-term thinking investments to best position the U.S. over the next half century as well. Additionally, the 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans caucus is supporting continued aggressive stimulus programs implemented and adopted by recent legislative, regulatory and central bank actions with additional actions should be considered.
The caucus argues there is no better time than now to pass a comprehensive bipartisan infrastructure investment with zero percent interest rates and jobless claims rising.
Copies of the checklist were delivered to Congressional leadership and the White House as options for immediate consideration in the next phase of Coronavirus aid legislation.