Tag Archives: economic policy

Dueling Economic Agendas: Biden, Democrats Blast Republicans

During the State of the Union address, President Joe Biden laid out a plan to continue to grow the economy in a stable, sustainable way, so that all Americans could benefit. Republicans, meanwhile, are intent on policies that would add $3 trillion to the national debt while hurting seniors, the middle class, working families. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via MSNBC.

Further evidence that President Joe Biden’s economic plan – essentially building the economy from the bottom up and the middle out, and creating longterm, sustainable, stable growth – is working. Despite the manufactured hysteria over inflation and impending recession, the data shows otherwise – in terms of record 12 million jobs created, lowest unemployment in 50 years, real increase in wages.

Biden is also able to show progress in slowing inflation – which has been much more crippling throughout the world – and has been able to demonstrate that while his economic policies will address the national debt (a record reduction in the budget deficit), Republicans’ agenda would worsen the national debt (largely caused by the Trump/GOP tax plan that reduced taxes on the wealthiest individuals and corporations, and which added $7.4 trillion, or 25% of the national debt, in the four-year term). The Republican plan would actually add $3 trillion MORE to the national debt.

President Biden, commenting on the January CPI Report, said:

“Inflation in America is continuing to come down, which is good news for families and businesses across the country. Today’s data confirm that annual inflation has fallen for seven straight months. Inflation for food at the grocery store came down again last month. Gas prices are down about $1.60 from their peak last year. And real wages for working Americans are up over the last seven months, delivering welcome breathing room for American families. We are seeing this progress even as unemployment remains at its lowest level since 1969 and job growth remains resilient.”  
“There is still more work to do as we make this transition to more steady, stable growth, and there could be setbacks along the way. That is why my unwavering focus is on continuing to lower costs for families, rebuild our supply chains, and invest in America. Right now, because of the Inflation Reduction Act we passed last year, we are lowering prescription drug costs, health care costs, and home energy costs for tens of millions of Americans all while lowering our deficits. My administration is eliminating junk fees which make it harder for American families to make ends meet at the end of the month. And we are creating manufacturing jobs all across the country, which will lower costs and rebuild our supply chains.”
“Unfortunately, many of my Republican friends in Congress seem intent on taking us in the opposite direction. They have proposed repealing the Inflation Reduction Act, which would make inflation worse, shower billions of dollars on Big Pharma, and increase the deficit. They are threatening to raise costs for seniors by threatening to cut Medicare and Social Security, and other critical programs that American seniors and families count on. And some are threatening to default on the full faith and credit of the U.S., which would raise costs and create economic chaos. I will stand firmly against any effort to make inflation worse and increase costs for families. Today’s data reinforces that we have made historic progress and are on the right track, and now we need to finish the job. “

The Congressional Republican Agenda to Increase the Debt by Over $3 Trillion

Congressional Republican leaders insist that the national debt is among our nation’s greatest challenges, and reducing it is among their highest priorities. In fact, they claim that reducing the debt is so urgent it warrants endangering the entire U.S. economy through debt limit brinksmanship. But their legislative agenda to date points in a very different direction—with proposals that would increase the debt by over $3 trillion.

  • The first bill passed by the new Republican House majority increased the debt by $114 billion by allowing wealthy people and corporations to continue to cheat on their taxes.
  • Congressional Republicans proposed repealing—and are even running ads attacking—reforms President Biden signed to lower prescription drug costs. Repealing these policies would increase the amount of money Medicare pays Big Pharma, raise costs for seniors, and add $159 billion to the debt.
  • House Republicans have advocated and proposed repealing tax increases on large corporations that President Biden has signed into law, adding $296 billion to the debt.
  • House Republican leaders have also committed to extend the expiring Trump tax cuts, a $2.7 trillion debt increase that would give the top 0.1% (with incomes over $4 million per year) a $175,000 annual tax cut, over 2.5 times a typical family’s annual income.

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, exposed the political logic of Congressional Republicans’ fiscal hypocrisy. He told Republicans their focus should be “not the deficit” after all: it’s to shift public discussion to cutting spending, paving the way for more tax cuts for the wealthy.

That trickle-down economic theory has never worked. President Trump and President Bush’s tax cuts added trillions to the debt and failed to deliver their promised benefits for the economy or American workers. And taking revenues—and even savings from cutting corporate subsidies—off the table means Congressional Republicans consistently propose deep cuts to programs seniors and middle-class and working families count on.

That’s why the American people deserve to see Congressional Republicans’ full and detailed budget plan and compare it with the President’s Budget plan to invest in America, bring down costs for families, protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and reduce the deficit, which he will release March 9.

Congressional Republicans’ Commitment to Debt Increases

The fiscal consequences of the debt increases Congressional Republicans have put at the top of their agenda are stark. After a decade, these policies, if enacted, would add over $3 trillion to the debt (accounting for debt service costs), increasing debt as a share of the economy by almost 10 percentage points.
Congressional Republicans’ debt increases include:

The Tax Cheats Protection Act: House Republicans’ first bill in the new Congress would add $114 billion to the Federal debt by repealing President Biden’s legislation that cracks down on wealthy tax cheats. While working people pay 99% of taxes on their income from wages and salaries, the top 1% hides about 20% of their income from tax, including by funneling it through offshore accounts and tax havens that do not report earnings. President Biden passed a law to make our tax system fairer by cracking down on wealthy tax cheats, while protecting middle-class taxpayers and small businesses and improving taxpayer service. But 221 House Republicans voted to enable tax fraud by wealthy Americans and large corporations.

Increase Spending With a Handout to Big Pharma: House Republicans have introduced a bill to repeal the entire Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), including the reforms President Biden signed into law to lower prescription drug costs. Congressional Republicans and Big Pharma have launched a concerted attack on the IRA’s prescription drug reforms, advocating to increase both Federal spending and seniors’ costs to increase Big Pharma’s profits. Thanks to the new prescription drug law, Medicare will finally be able to negotiate drug prices, and drug companies will pay rebates to Medicare if they try to hike their prices faster than the rate of inflation. Congressional Republicans want to repeal these policies, giving a $159 billion handout to Big Pharma, raising costs for seniors, and driving up the Federal debt.

Enrich Multi-Billion Dollar Corporations: In 2020, 55 of the largest, most profitable corporations paid $0 in taxes. The President signed into law legislation to level the playing field for companies and small businesses that are already paying their fair share in taxes. Under his corporate minimum tax, the largest, most profitable corporations—those with over $1 billion in profits—have to pay a 15% minimum tax on the profits they report to their shareholders. But House Republicans—through their Inflation Reduction Act repeal bill and other statements—have made clear that they want to enrich large corporations that don’t pay their fair share. That would add $222 billion to the debt.

Increase the Tax Subsidy for Stock Buybacks: President Biden signed into law a surcharge on corporate stock buybacks, which reduces the differential tax treatment between buybacks and dividends and encourages businesses to invest in their growth and productivity as opposed to paying out corporate executives or funneling tax-preferred profits to foreign shareholdersThe President in his State of the Union address proposed quadrupling the stock buybacks tax to 4% to address the continued tax advantage for buybacks and encourage long-term investment over giveaways to executives. House Republicans instead want to repeal the stock buybacks tax and let corporations continue to funnel tax-preferred profits to shareholders instead of investing in productivity and the broader economy. That would add $74 billion to the Federal debt.

Extend President Trump’s Unpaid-for Tax Giveaway to the Wealthy and Large Corporations: President Trump and Congressional Republicans deliberately sunset portions of their tax giveaway to the wealthy and large corporations. They did this to conceal how much their plan added to the debt as well as how large the tax breaks were for multi-millionaires and large corporations. Now, House Republican Leadership has made clear that extending President Trump’s tax giveaway to the wealthy and large corporations is one of their top priorities. An analysis by the Tax Policy Center found that doing so would mean an average tax cut of $175,000 for the top 0.1%—Americans making more than $4 million per year. That average tax cut is more than 2.5 times a typical family’s annual income. Meanwhile, extending the expiring Trump tax cuts would add $2.7 trillion to the Federal debt over 10 years.

The President supports a fiscally responsible approach to continuing current tax policies for people making less than $400,000 per year, and opposes any tax increase for this group. Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans—including the more than three quarters of them who are signatories to Grover Norquist’s tax pledge—have made clear they will oppose paying for middle-class tax cuts by raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations.

Even Without a Budget, Congressional Republicans Are Already Showing Who Will Pay the Price

The proposals Congressional Republicans have put forward show that, even as they commit to massive tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations, they are more than ready to raise taxes on middle-class and working families. The House Republican IRA repeal bill would cut premium tax credits that are helping an estimated 14.5 million people pay for health insurance. And the House Budget Committee last week doubled down on eliminating Affordable Care Act premium tax credits for middle-income people with high health insurance premiums: a tax increase of $7,600 per year for a typical 62-year old earning $55,000.

In addition, some Congressional Republicans continue to push a national retail sales tax bill that would repeal most existing taxes and impose a new 30% sales tax on American families. The legislation would increase debt by trillions—and cut taxes for a couple making a million dollars a year by more than $200,000—and at the same time would raise taxes by at least $7,000 for a retired couple with $60,000 in Social Security income and at least $6,000 for a single mom making $38,000, a recent analysis found.

The bottom line is: having committed to over $3 trillion in debt increases and also insisted they are committed to reducing the debt, Congressional Republicans owe the American public a complete and transparent accounting of who will foot the bill. Will it be middle-class and working families, seniors, students, or all of the above? 

House Republican agenda amounts to a death panel for Medicare and Social Security:

The contrast in agendas for America between President Joe Biden and the Democrats and the Congressional Republicans could not be more stark.

While President Biden, in his State of the Union address, described his plans for building on the historic job creation he has achieved, making more progress against inflation, reducing the deficit by making the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share, and protecting Medicare and Social Security benefits from cuts, in contrast, House Republicans opened the week by announcing the latest in a long succession of attempts to undermine Medicare and Social Security.

Bloomberg reports that as part of a ransom demand for not triggering a financial meltdown, top House Republicans want an agreement that both earned benefits programs are put on track for cuts.

As The Washington Post reported in late January, House Republicans have continuously pressed for slashing Medicare and Social Security benefits in exchange for not actively harming the American economy with the first debt default in our history.  

House Republicans have repeatedly indicated they would do so in the new Congress, and on the campaign trail.

Republicans have also introduced legislation to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, which would be one of the biggest Medicare benefit cuts in history, depriving seniors of lower insulin costs, the $2,000 cap on out of pocket expenses for prescription drugs, and Medicare’s new ability to negotiate lower drug costs.

Today’s news is even more confirmation that House Republicans are taking direct aim at programs that are critical to the middle class, even as they vote for tax giveaways to the rich that would manage to increase taxes on working families while raising the deficit at the same time, the White House stated.

“With the President poised to announce new plans to keep making our economy works from the bottom up and the middle out – not the top down – House Republicans are dead-set on the opposite,” said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates. “They’re opening the week unveiling their latest in a long line of ultimatums about how they’ll act to kill jobs, businesses, and retirement accounts if they can’t cut Medicare and Social Security benefits. Meanwhile, they’re voting to worsen the deficit with tax welfare for the rich and big corporations. Think about that: they’re targeting the Medicare and Social Security benefits that middle class families pay in to earn their whole lives, then turning around and giving tax handouts to big corporations. The American people want more jobs and lower costs, not a death panel for Medicare and Social Security.” 

“While President Biden shows the American people his plan to build on the unprecedented deficit reduction his leadership has already delivered, by having the richest taxpayers and big corporations pay their fair share and lowering prescription drug prices, House Republicans’ only plan is to make the deficit skyrocket by over $3 trillion with unaffordable tax giveaways to wealthy special interests,” stated White House spokesperson Andrew Bates. “They’ve even proposed raiding Medicare so that the ultra-rich can enjoy new tax welfare. Meanwhile, House Republicans are threatening to actively throw our economy into a tailspin with a default – which they have a non-negotiable, Constitutional duty to prevent – unless they can further cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It’s utterly backwards. The President is delivering on his commitment to build an economy that grows from the bottom up and the middle out – not from the top down. The House GOP seems determined to pull the American economy in the opposite direction, increasing taxes on working families while giving $3 trillion in new handouts for the rich.”

The chart below is based on the record:

Policy10-Year Deficit Increase
Republican House-passed bill to make it easier for billionaires to cheat on their taxes$114 billion
Republican Proposals to repeal Inflation Reduction Act’s prescription drug savings, which will raise costs for seniors and Medicare and increase federal spending$159 billion
Republican Proposals to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act’s 15% minimum tax on corporations with profits over $1 billion$222 billion
Republican Proposals to extend the Trump tax cuts: an average tax cut of $175,000 for the top 0.1%$2.7 trillion
Deficit increases from Republican proposals to dateOver $3 trillion

Congressional Republicans keep calling for earned benefits on the one hand, but more tax giveaways for the rich on the other

After President Biden put Republicans on the defensive over their long-public intentions to slash Medicare and Social Security benefits, a continuing list of congressional Republicans ranging from Ron Johnson last week to Senator Mike Rounds yesterday, keep proving his point.

Whether it’s a large number of House Republicans and Rick Scott pushing to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act in what would be one of the worst Medicare benefit cuts of all time, or the Republican Study Committee proposing benefit cuts and the privatization of Social Security of last year, the receipts are undeniable. For months, congressional Republicans have indicated they would even use the threat of a catastrophic default to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits.

Republicans in Congress justify these intentions under the guise of fiscal responsibility. However, at the same time, they are advocating for enormous tax giveaways to rich special interests that, combined, would add over $3 trillion to the debt. Those two positions are irreconcilable.

The first vote the Republican-controlled House took was to help wealthy individuals and multinational corporations worsen inflation by cheating on their taxes. They broadly support renewing the Trump tax giveaways for the rich. And in addition to being a Medicare benefit cut, repealing the Inflation Reduction Act would at the same time be more tax welfare for the rich and a giant windfall for Big Pharma. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  

“It’s irreconcilable to support Medicare and Social Security benefit cuts in the name of supposed ‘fiscal responsibility,’ while at the same time adding $3 trillion to the national debt with a seemingly endless gravy train for rich special interests,” said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates. “Prioritizing tax giveaways for the wealthy and specific handouts for Big Pharma over the Medicare and Social Security benefits that middle class families pay to earn throughout their lives is a recipe for making our economy work from the top-down. The last thing that Americans who’ve felt invisible want is cuts to lifeline programs in exchange for permanent trickle-down economics.”

Senator Klobuchar Releases Plan to Prepare For and Respond to the Coronavirus in Rural America

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, released a plan to prepare for and respond to the coronavirus in rural America involving bolstering health care infrastructure, agriculture supply chain and rural economy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Today, Senator Amy Klobuchar released a plan to prepare for and respond to the coronavirus in rural America. 

As a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Klobuchar has long been a leader in tackling the challenges that rural communities face. She believes our country needs to take immediate action to respond to the pandemic’s spread to rural America by strengthening rural hospitals and rural health care systems, supporting farmers and ensuring the continuity of the agricultural supply chain, and helping small businesses, workers and other critical aspects of the rural economy. 

“We’re facing a national crisis — it affects every American, no matter where they live,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar. “While COVID-19 may be slower to spread to some rural areas, its impact will likely be just as serious, as we’ve seen in places like Albany, Georgia and Martin County, Minnesota. From expanding access to health care, to supporting farmers, to helping small businesses, we need to ensure that all communities across rural America are not left behind and have the resources they need to respond to this pandemic.”

Plan to Prepare For and Respond to the Coronavirus in Rural America

The coronavirus pandemic is a national crisis — it affects every American, no matter where they live. While COVID-19 may be slower to spread to some rural areas, its impact is expected to be as serious as it has been in urban areas. Rural Americans are more vulnerable to the virus but are often less able to access treatment. Rural Americans are more likely to be older and have serious chronic medical conditions — two of the greatest risk factors for severe illness from COVID-19. At the same time, people living in rural America are more likely to be poor and uninsured, making it difficult for them to afford treatment. And many rural hospitals and health care systems have fewer ICU beds and resources and could quickly become overwhelmed if they experience even a minor surge in critical patients.

Many rural communities are already facing these challenges. In Georgia, the rural city of Albany has been badly hit by pandemic — in early April it had one of the highest percentages of confirmed cases anywhere in the country and the National Guard has been deployed to help the local hospital. The town, whose residents are predominantly African American, also highlights the impact that our country’s response to the virus in rural America has on people of color — one in five rural Americans is a person of color or an indigenous person, and the coronavirus appears to be infecting and killing people of color at a disproportionately high rate.

In addition to the public health crisis rural communities are confronting, they are also facing an economic crisis. The farming and agriculture industry is seeing major disruptions due to the coronavirus, which will not only hurt rural areas, but could lead to higher food prices for consumers across the country. Small businesses, which are the backbone of many rural economies, are being hit hard, and rural workers are struggling to access child care, broadband, and many other critical services during the pandemic.

As a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Klobuchar has long been a leader in tackling the challenges that rural communities face. She believes our country needs to take immediate action to respond to the pandemic’s spread to rural America by strengthening rural hospitals and rural health care systems, supporting farmers and ensuring the continuity of the agricultural supply chain, and helping small businesses, workers, and other critical aspects of the rural economy. The only way to beat this pandemic is to fight the virus together, and that means making sure that every community — from the biggest city to the smallest town — has the resources and support they need to respond to this crisis. 

Rural Health Care

Rural health care systems are on the front lines of combating the coronavirus, but many are facing shortages of critical resources that they will need to treat patients — from ICU beds and ventilators, to doctors, nurses and other health care workers staffing the hospitals, to testing and personal protective equipment. We need to anticipate these challenges in areas that haven’t yet seen a surge in cases and make sure that we’re getting rural health care systems the support they need to keep people safe.

Rural Hospitals and Health Clinics

Provide rural hospitals the resources they need to confront the pandemic. Rural hospitals, including Critical Access Hospitals, provide essential medical services to rural communities, but they also often have smaller operating margins than larger hospitals. Right now, they face added financial pressure due to increased expenditures to prepare for an influx of patients with COVID-19 at the same time they have had to cancel elective procedures, which are normally a major source of revenue. We need to take action to make sure these hospitals remain able to serve rural communities, especially during this crisis. Senator Klobuchar is calling for an expedited process with dedicated support for Critical Access Hospitals and other rural hospitals to immediately receive grants and loans they need to purchase supplies, modify their facilities, and pay their staff. She is pushing for an expansion of the $100 billion Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund so that funding is available for hospitals that are likely to experience a surge of patients later in the crisis, including many in rural America. She is also calling for a longer timeline for repayment and other necessary flexibility under the Medicare Accelerated Payments Program so rural hospitals have the time they need to regain their financial footing and she is calling for changes to ensure that small publicly-owned hospitals are eligible for the Payment Protection Program. In addition, Senator Klobuchar has championed legislation to help hospitals in rural areas stay open by creating a new Rural Emergency Hospital classification under Medicare to give hospitals more support if they maintain an emergency room and provide outpatient services. She also supports providing ongoing financial relief by making the suspension of the two percent Medicare automatic reimbursement cut permanent for rural hospitals and considering what other temporary relief may need to be extended to allow rural hospitals to recover financially from the impact of the pandemic. 

Temporarily reopen recently closed rural hospitals when possible. Senator Klobuchar is calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to explore funding and regulatory flexibility to temporarily reopen some of the over 120 rural hospitals that have closed in the last decade. Temporarily reopened facilities could help provide overflow support to hospitals that have reached capacity and provide an option for basic levels of care for rural residents to limit pressure on larger hospitals. 

Support rural health clinics. Many rural communities don’t have easy access to a hospital and instead rely on rural clinics for their health care. We need to make sure that these clinics have the resources they need to effectively diagnose and treat patients who may not need to be hospitalized, or who come to them before hospitalization. Senator Klobuchar is calling for increased support for the USDA’s Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program, additional support for community health centers — over half of which are in rural areas — and specifically targeting additional small business assistance to health care providers. To strengthen the long-term financial health of rural health care providers, Senator Klobuchar supports adjusting Medicare’s geographic practice cost index to reflect the actual costs of providing health care in rural areas.

Health Care Workers and Supplies

Strengthen the rural health care workforce. On average, rural areas have half as many physicians per capita as urban areas, and rural areas face shortages of nurses, physicians assistants, specialists, and other medical providers. Senator Klobuchar is calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to provide the maximum possible flexibility to rural health providers to develop adaptable staffing plans to respond to increased demand and compensate for workers who may become sick or need to isolate. She has also called on the Department of Homeland Security to provide additional flexibility for foreign medical workers in the United States on temporary visas. Many health care workers in rural areas are also facing challenges with child care, especially in child care deserts that already have a shortage of child care facilities. Senator Klobuchar is calling for dedicated funding to set up temporary child care facilities for health care and other critical workers in child care deserts. To address rural workforce shortages more broadly, Senator Klobuchar supports building on the Conrad 30 program that allows international doctors trained in the United States to extend their stay in the country if they agree to practice in underserved communities. She also supports expanding student loan forgiveness programs for health care and long-term care workers practicing in underserved areas. 

Ensure rural areas have access to necessary medical supplies and testing. Medical facilities across the country face a shortage of necessary medical supplies including personal protective equipment, testing supplies, hospital beds, and ventilators. As competition for supplies has intensified, rural health providers, with less available cash and smaller economies of scale, are at a significant disadvantage. Senator Klobuchar is calling for additional funding to hospitals to purchase these critical supplies and specific consideration of the needs of rural areas when designing federal, state, and regional supply distribution strategies and when allocating equipment from the National Strategic Stockpile.    

Health Policies that Work for Rural America

Target public health messages for rural areas. The coronavirus pandemic is a national crisis and public health communications should reflect all parts of the country. Senator Klobuchar is calling for consistent and targeted messages from public health agencies to highlight the importance of preparation and prevention in rural areas. Public health officials also need to provide practical information to those living in rural areas who cannot stay at home for financial, medical or safety reasons and may need to continue to travel significant distances during the pandemic. 

Address racial disparities in health outcomes. Senator Klobuchar is calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to provide rural health systems information and tools they need to address racial disparities in health outcomes from coronavirus. She has also called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide demographic and racial data about the impact of coronavirus and for the Administration to increase outreach to minority communities disproportionately impacted by the virus, including those living in rural areas. 

Increase regional collaboration. Small rural health care providers are less likely to have additional resources to reallocate internally to respond to sudden increases in demand or shortages of personnel and equipment. Senator Klobuchar is calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to develop best practices for local regional cooperation among health care providers during the pandemic. She will also push for needed regulatory flexibility and additional funding for the Hospital Preparedness Program to facilitate cooperative agreements. 

Expand access to telehealth and virtual visits. Telehealth services can protect patients and providers from exposure to coronavirus while still responding to patients’ medical needs. This is even more important in rural areas where patients could otherwise have to travel long distances to receive care, further increasing the possibility of exposure and transmission. To build on the temporary flexibility already provided for some telehealth services, Senator Klobuchar is leading bipartisan legislation to expand telehealth programs and support access to technology for virtual visits to help protect vulnerable populations from possible exposure to the virus. She also supports permanently reforming Medicare telehealth rules that unfairly limit coverage and reimbursement so that rural communities can continue to benefit from strong telehealth options after the pandemic. 

Farmers and Agriculture 

Spring is a critical planting and harvesting time for many American farmers, and they are facing major disruptions due to the pandemic. If farmers are unable to plant their crops or get their goods to market, that could devastate many rural economies and hurt consumers, who will see higher prices for their food at a time when budgets are already stretched too thin. We need to make sure that we are providing farmers and farm workers with the support they need to survive this crisis and continue to get food to Americans across the country who need it. 

Immediate Support for Farmers

Provide farmers financial relief. The coronavirus pandemic is causing new disruptions across the agricultural sector for producers who have already been dealing with persistently low commodity prices, economic uncertainty, and tight farm lending regulations. Senator Klobuchar has called for the Farm Service Agency to provide clear guidance, consider targeted loan forgiveness measures, and expand efforts to ensure farmers have reliable access to credit. She is calling on USDA to fully use the Agricultural Mediation Program to resolve credit issues in a way that works for both farmers and lenders. Senator Klobuchar is also calling for the Small Business Administration to allow for the broadest possible access to the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans in rural America, including by allowing Farm Credit System institutions to serve as lenders where many farmers and rural businesses have already established relationships. Building off bipartisan legislation led by Senator Klobuchar that was recently passed into law to expand access to Chapter 12 bankruptcy for family farmers, Senator Klobuchar is also calling for outreach to farmers about eligibility for and the benefits of this option, which allows family farmers to reorganize and keep the farm after falling on hard times. 

Address low commodity prices. As a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, Senator Klobuchar worked to write and pass three farm bills with strong farm safety nets for our farmers. These safety nets are more important than ever as farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers are facing direct losses from disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and futures for most agricultural products indicate that these losses are likely to continue. These losses are being experienced across the board with reports of dairy farmers suffering $5.7 billion in losses in the last five weeks, hog producers estimating they will lose $37 per pig for the remainder of the year, and cattle ranchers facing a 30 percent loss to the value of their cattle since the beginning of the year. Senator Klobuchar is calling for additional short-term support to producers as needed through dedicated disaster funding and the Commodities Credit Corporation. To provide stability for farmers as they recover from the effects of the pandemic, Senator Klobuchar is calling for indexing farm safety net support levels to reflect changes in our country’s cost of production, low commodity prices, and loss of global market access. She is also calling for fully funding permanent disaster programs and improving support levels, loan rates and program delivery. Senator Klobuchar also is pushing for improving and expanding commodity support and federal crop insurance programs and increasing the average premium subsidy for crop insurance.

Protecting Farm Workers

Protect farm workers and food processors on the job. Workers on farms and at food processing facilities often work in crowded conditions that present an opportunity for the spread of coronavirus. Senator Klobuchar is calling for updated Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules to keep these workers safe, increased training on best practices available in appropriate languages, and support for farms and businesses to provide appropriate personal protective equipment to employees and adjust their operations to lower the likelihood of coronavirus transmission among their workers. The closure of the Smithfield Foods processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, demonstrates how the lack of national testing and public health response can disrupt food supplies and put workers at risk.

Support health and safety for agricultural workers. Many agricultural workers lack access to health care and housing appropriate for social distancing or quarantining. Senator Klobuchar is calling for increased support for the National Center for Farmworker Health and other programs at the Health Resources and Services Administration that support farm worker health. In addition, she is calling for emergency housing for agricultural workers to limit the spread of the virus among workers at home, provide a safe place for workers who need to self quarantine, and to make it easier for unemployed Americans to relocate to areas where agricultural jobs may be available. She is also calling on the Administration to provide clear, long-term guidance that will allow immigration programs for temporary farm workers to operate at a level consistent with past years even as consular services are reduced. 

Ensuring the Continuity of the Supply Chain

Ensure the continuity of the food supply chain. Complex supply chains connect farmers to consumers. Disruptions in any portion of the supply chain can ripple through and create additional challenges for producers or shortages for consumers, especially when it comes to highly perishable products such as fruits and vegetables. Among others, truck drivers play a critical role in this supply chain. Senator Klobuchar is calling for actions to protect the safety of workers throughout the supply chain and minimize disruptions of interstate freight operations. That means clear federal standards and enforcement for employee health and safety, exemptions from travel restrictions for workers critical to supply chains, temporary flexibility on commercial drivers license renewals, and efforts to maintain rest areas and other services important to the safety of commercial vehicle operators. She also is calling for emergency funding for ports and other intermodal facilities that may see temporary reductions in demand but will be essential for responding to shifting supply chains as the pandemic progresses. She is calling for additional flexibility for USDA inspectors to increase the use of virtual certifications and overtime as necessary to compensate for inspectors who are sick or quarantined. 

Help producers transition to new supply chains. Some producers who normally sell to commercial food services operators or farmers markets and need to temporarily find new supply chains to connect them to grocery stores and other customers facing increased demand. Senator Klobuchar is calling for increased support for establishing alternate supply chains including through programs such as the Value-Added Producer Grant program, Local Agriculture Market Program, and Regional Food System Partnerships. 

Responding to Changing Demand for Food and Fuel

Promote food security. As unemployment rises and many families face reduced incomes, demand for nutritional assistance from the federal government and charitable organizations is increasing. Senator Klobuchar is calling for expanding the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit, increasing the size of the benefit provided for teenage family members and expanding the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children. These policies should be made permanent as recommended in a National Academies of Science Report on how to reduce child poverty by half in ten years, but at minimum they need to be extended through the duration of the economic recovery that will follow the immediate health emergency. Senator Klobuchar is calling for the Administration to authorize the use of the Disaster Household Distribution nationwide to provide increased flexibility to food banks during the pandemic. She is also urging the Administration to end rulemakings currently in progress that make it harder to qualify for SNAP by restricting categorical eligibility, changing the way utility costs are calculated, and giving states less flexibility during times of high unemployment. 

Support homegrown energy. Senator Klobuchar believes that homegrown biofuels are key to our rural economies, our nation’s energy security, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. She has been a leader when it comes to standing up to the Administration’s misuse of small refinery renewable fuel standard (RFS) waivers, and she authored an amendment that was included in the Farm Bill that provides mandatory funding to support biobased marketing and manufacturing. As demand for fuel has dramatically declined, many biofuel producers are being forced to idle plants and layoff workers. Senator Klobuchar is calling for temporary relief for the biofuels sector from the Commodity Credit Corporation. In addition, to strengthen the long-term outlook for biofuel production in the United States, Senator Klobuchar supports strengthening the RFS, promoting the use of blender bumps, passing a law to ensure year-round E-15 sales, and extending the biodiesel and second generation biofuels tax credits.

Rural Workers and Businesses

Like the rest of America, rural economies are getting hit hard by this crisis. Many rural workers and businesses will face unique challenges getting back on their feet, and we need to make sure that they are getting the support they need to make it through the pandemic. 

A Path to Recovery for Small Businesses

Provide small businesses the relief they need. Small businesses are the lifeblood of many rural communities, and are being hit extremely hard during this pandemic. If small businesses in rural America close for good, entire towns will suffer. That’s why Senator Klobuchar, along with Senators Chris Coons and Ben Cardin, secured a provision in the CARES Act that provides six months of relief on SBA loan payments for 320,000 small businesses — but more needs to be done. Senator Klobuchar is calling for an expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program created in the CARES Act to provide sufficient funding to get rural small businesses through the crisis. She is also calling for targeted tax relief to allow businesses to preserve cash and additional relief for businesses struggling with rent, mortgage, and insurance premiums. She has also introduced legislation to create a Treasury Department program to partner with states and private investors to help fund new businesses in parts of the country that have a shortage of equity investments in new businesses, with a focus on businesses founded by women and people of color. 

Increase technical assistance for small businesses. The number and complexity of programs designed to provide support for small businesses can make access assistance difficult in some instances. Many small businesses in rural areas work closely with community banks and credit unions who are well positioned to provide advice based on their understanding of local conditions. That’s why Senator Klobuchar supports reserving a portion of future small business relief for distribution through community-based financial institutions. She is also calling on the Small Business Administration to make sure their outreach and education efforts reach small businesses in rural areas and address their needs and for Congress to provide additional support for nonprofit organizations assisting small businesses to retain staff. 

Provide ongoing support to rural small businesses. Small businesses in rural areas face additional obstacles in accessing credit because many traditional lenders do not have the infrastructure and experience to effectively serve rural America. Senator Klobuchar is calling for expanding and strengthening USDA’s Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program and the Rural Business Investment Program and continued support for the Farm Credit System. Senator Klobuchar will strengthen USDA programs that support entrepreneurs like the Value-Added Producer Grants, Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, Intermediary Relending Program, and Agricultural Innovation Centers. She will push to reauthorize the New Market Tax Credit and make sure it effectively serves rural America. 

Ensure federal investments reach communities suffering from decades of neglect. When it comes to long-term economic development investments to help communities recover from the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, Senator Klobuchar is calling for adopting Congressman Jim Clyburn’s 10–20–30 plan, which Senator Cory Booker has also led in the Senate, in which 10 percent of federal resources are committed to communities where at least 20 percent of the population has been living below the poverty line for 30 years or more, many of which are in rural areas. 

Standing up for Rural Workers

Support the service sector. While agriculture is a significant part of rural economies, the service sector actually employs the largest number of workers in rural counties — and these jobs are being hit hard by the crisis. We need to make sure these workers are able to continue to make ends meet and provide for their families during and after the pandemic. The CARES Act included critical relief for workers — including direct cash payments, expanded unemployment insurance that covers self-employed workers and gig workers, and temporary relief for borrowers with federal student loans — but more needs to be done. Senator Klobuchar is calling for expanding paid leave to cover additional workers, enforceable standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect workers from exposure to coronavirus, and making sure rural businesses of all sizes can access support and incentives to retain and rehire workers. 

Expand access to child care. Rural communities experience unique challenges when it comes to child care, as nearly two-thirds of rural families live in a child care desert, meaning an area where there are at least three young children for every licensed child care slot — or no licensed child care providers at all. The closure of schools has created additional challenges for essential workers who need to find child care while they provide critical services. Senator Klobuchar is calling for expanding assistance in rural areas by further increasing funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and increasing the subsidy rate so that rural child care providers can more easily meet their operating expenses and increase the quality of their programs. She also supports limiting child care payments to 7 percent of a family’s income and making targeted investments to build the supply of licensed child care in rural child care deserts.  

Living in Rural America 

From the lack of broadband access to child care deserts, living in rural America during this pandemic can pose unique challenges. We need to take action to make sure that families in rural communities have the resources they need to continue to live their lives during this pandemic.

Ensuring Families Have the Resources to Succeed

Improve broadband access. Roughly one in four rural Americans say access to high-speed internet is a major problem. Access to broadband increases options for employment, health care, education, and staying in touch with loved ones during the pandemic. During a time when schools are switching their classes to distance learning, rural and low-income students without broadband access are at a particular disadvantage. We must make sure that rural and low-income families have access to resources to help them access broadband. That’s why Senator Klobuchar has introduced legislation to provide $2 billion for a new Keeping Critical Connections Emergency Fund to help connect low-income families and students who have switched to distance learning by compensating small providers who offer free or discounted broadband services or upgrades. She has also called for additional funding for the E-Rate program, including support to provide WiFi hotspots to students without broadband connections.  

Support rural education. Rural school districts typically have fewer students, face higher transportation costs and have fewer options for professional development compared to urban school districts. Senator Klobuchar is calling for formulas, flexibility, and guidance for federal and state support to school districts that take into account the unique needs of rural districts to ensure they receive equitable funding. She is also calling for additional support for rural school districts that are distributing meals to students who are unable to pick them up at school, including working with local agricultural producers to incorporate fresh food when possible. 

Increase support for affordable housing. Before the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, 54 million Americans lived in rural areas with a severe need for more affordable rental housing. With millions of Americans facing unemployment through no fault of their own, even more Americans are now likely to need housing assistance. Senator Klobuchar is calling for strong enforcement of the temporary moratorium on evictions for properties with federally-backed mortgages and an extension of the moratorium if economic conditions have not significantly improved by the time it is set to expire. She will also push for any emergency rental assistance funding to be fairly distributed to renters living in rural areas. Senator Klobuchar also supports strengthening rural rental assistance programs and significantly increasing investments in the rural housing supply by the federal government and through incentives to private lenders. 

Maintaining Important Government Services

Support local governments. Many rural counties and municipalities already faced tight budgets before the pandemic. Now they are spending money to change how services are delivered during the pandemic and are seeing higher levels of demand for many services. At the same time, sources of revenue such as sales taxes are declining. Since many of these governments also have smaller workforces, any absences due to illness or quarantine can also have a disproportionate effect on their ability to provide essential services. Senator Klobuchar is calling for additional federal support for local governments, including direct federal support for smaller and rural local governments. .  

Maintain a reliable Postal Service. A reliable Postal Service providing consistent mail delivery has always been important in rural areas, including for mail-order prescription drugs, and is even more important when people are staying home and practicing social distancing. However, the steep decline in mail volume caused by the pandemic, combined with ongoing financial difficulties, has created a crisis for the Postal Service. Senator Klobuchar is calling for immediate financial relief for the Postal Service and increased flexibility for the Postal Service to respond to workforce shortages caused by the coronavirus while maintaining the highest possible delivery standards that prioritize medical deliveries and account for the needs of rural America. She will also continue to stand up against attempts to privatize this essential public service.

Protect consumers from bad actors. While most Americans are coming together to do our part to fight the pandemic, some bad actors are using the crisis to take advantage of people. There are widespread reports of price gouging, which can be a particular problem in rural America where consumers are less likely to be able to find alternative vendors for the supplies they need. To address this, Senator Klobuchar has introduced legislation to outlaw price gouging during pandemics, natural disasters, and other emergencies and to empower the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to fine those trying to unfairly profit off of disasters. There are also increasing reports of scams, especially those targeting seniors. Senator Klobuchar has called on the FTC to step up its education and enforcement efforts to stop scammers, and she leads bipartisan legislation in the Senate to give the FTC additional tools to prevent and respond to fraud targeting seniors.

Read the full plan here