A 50-member bipartisan group of lawmakers has issued a checklist of criteria that need to be met in order to safely reopen the U.S. economy.
The Republican and Democratic members of the Problem Solver Caucus have been working via video conferencing over the course of the last month to evaluate how to provide enough protective measures and testing to get people back to work and back to school.
“The bottom line is people I think are eager for a checklist. They want to understand what we think it takes to get everything moving again,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, told Fox News.
The “Back to Work” checklist was unveiled Monday and is set to be included in the next round of relief funding being worked on by Congress.
“What this checklist does is it shows that if you’re sincere and you want to put partisan politics aside … you can actually roll up your sleeves and you can find some common ground that makes a lot of good common sense,” Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, told Fox News. “It also shows that you can get the necessary votes at 218 and 60 to get it done [in the House and Senate.]”
The Trump administration released its plan for reopening America’s economy in three phases while incorporating public safety measures and testing, but some opponents to the president’s plan, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, say there is not enough testing available to make the plan viable.
One of the top priorities on the checklist is rapid COVID-19 testing and tracking for the masses at an estimated 5-fold increase from current levels.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is also at a top priority for the group, an issue that is directly linked to U.S. supply chains. Their plan would require domestic companies to produce greater quantities of PPE. The lawmakers also want schools to have access to PPE as this will allow them to open and parents to go to work.
“In the short run, we need to do it to get our schools back open,” Gottheimer said of having teachers and students wear masks. “That’s part of the precaution we’re going to have to take. If you’re in an area in New York and New Jersey that’s been hit hardest, we want to take every precaution.”
The checklist to reopen the country takes into account regional and economic differences, while laying out standards that must be met in order to fully reopen businesses, with some areas having more of the 22 million unemployed and 750,000 infected in their jurisdictions, like New York City.
Until a vaccine is ready, the lawmakers have included sanitizing, socially distancing workers, and adopting data-driving travel restrictions to allow people to more safely resume work.
The checklist includes the United States’ need to establish new supply chains for the production of medical and pharmaceuticals supplies.
The lawmakers are also calling for protecting the paychecks of U.S. workers and continuing to provide unemployment checks to the workers that have been displaced.
In addition, the group is recommending nationwide help for mortgage and rent payments. “We must find a way to afford relief, either through long-term loans, rental relief, forgiveness, or temporary forbearance for renters and homeowners, while, at the same time, ensuring liquidity of related lenders and landlords,” the checklist states.
The lawmakers want a real-time reporting mechanism for tracking hospital capacity, including surge capacity as well as enhancing front-line health care worker capacity for future outbreaks.
For the long-term, the bipartisan group wants Congress to make a “historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure.”
“If we can get to 75 percent-plus consensus, that’s a pretty good indication that these are solid ideas substantively that can bring people together,” Reed said of their voting process.
“Coronavirus has affected every facet of life for all American[s]. We must look comprehensively at our response and recovery, with a focus on public health and the economy,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, one of the members of the caucus.
The Reopening and Recovery Back to Work Checklist have been delivered to congressional leadership and the White House for consideration to be included in the next relief bill.