Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was the lone House Democrat on Thursday to vote against the $484 billion coronavirus relief package that provides additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that ran out of money two weeks ago dedicated to small businesses; as well as aid to hospitals and to expand coronavirus testing.
The House overwhelmingly passed the package 388-5-1. The measure, which the Senate passed unanimously on Tuesday, provides an immediate $310 billion to replenish the PPP that provides forgivable loans in the form of a grant to small businesses devastated by the pandemic. Roughly $60 billion of the additional PPP funds would be directed to rural and minority-owned companies. It also provides another $60 billion for an economic disaster-relief program, $75 billion for hospitals and health care facilities to address coronavirus expenses and lost revenue and $25 billion to facilitate and increased coronavirus testing.
Ocasio-Cortez, who represents a district that has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus, argued that the series of relief packages passed by Congress have not going far enough to help people in need and the current measure doesn’t have a safeguards to ensure mom-and-pop businesses receive such funding before big companies like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Shake Shack.
“It is a joke when Republicans say that they have urgency around this bill,” Ocasio-Cortez said in her floor speech before the vote. “The only folks that they have urgency around are folks like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Shake Shack. Those are the people getting assistance in this bill. You are not trying to fix this bill for mom and pops.”
“We have to fight to fund hospitals. Fighting to fund testing. That is what we’re fighting for in this bill,” she added. “It is unconscionable. If you have urgency, you would legislate like rent was due on May 1.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic primary challenger, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC anchor slammed the progressive lawmaker for being “THE ONLY ‘Democrat’” to vote against aid to small businesses, “overburdened hospitals” and more testing for the Bronx and Queens constituents that are the hardest hit neighborhood in the nation from the coronavirus.
“AOC votes against more aid to our overburdened hospitals in the Bronx and Queens and indeed the whole nation,” Caruso-Cabrera said. “AOC votes against more coronavirus testing for the Bronx and Queens and indeed the whole nation. AOC votes against aid to small businesses for the Bronx and Queens and indeed the whole nation.”
Meanwhile, @AOC plays politics. Unemployment is horrific and businesses are failing in the Bronx and Queens, and she grandstands as THE ONLY “Democrat” to vote against our hospitals, our small businesses, and our essential workers. pic.twitter.com/jtgwhHC2mL
— Michelle Caruso-Cabrera (@MCaruso_Cabrera) April 24, 2020
She added, “This is outrageous and just plain wrong. Nothing could underscore more clearly why AOC’s anti-democratic party, pro-socialist agenda needs to be rejected once and for all.”
The freshman lawmaker spokesperson, Lauren Hitt released a statement after the passage, defending Ocasio-Cortez voting against the relief bill.
“The bill did far too little for the NY-14 community. As it’s currently run, PPP favors collection of big banks fees and big franchises over community banks and true small businesses, particularly those run by people of color. Wall Street has already made $10 billion off the program through fees while tens of thousands of small businesses are still waiting for an answer on their application,” Ocasio-Cortez spokeswoman said. “The bill also provides no funding for state and local governments. Governor Cuomo harshly criticized this bill and said he will have to cut school funding if the federal government does not step up.
Hitt added that the proposal failed to include “hazard pay for our front-line workers,” while complaining that there might not be another stimulus legislation until May 4.
On Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez called for a national work boycott, saying that once businesses start to re-open, Americans should refuse and say “we’re not going back to that.”
“When we talk about this idea of ‘reopening society’ you know, only in America- does the President, when the President tweets about liberation, does he mean go back to work,” Ocasio-Cortez said in the VICE interview. “When we have this discussion about going back or reopening, I think a lot people should just say “no”- we’re not going back to that. We’re not going back to working 70 hour weeks just so that we can put food on the table and not even feel any sort of semblance of security in our lives.”