Coronavirus crisis -- No bailout for big business, help those first who need it most: Sen. Rick Scott

March 18, 2020

Fox Business
Op-Ed: Sen. Rick Scott
March 18, 2020

The coronavirus is just the latest test of our resolve and one we can and must get through together.

I look at a crisis from the perspective of someone who grew up poor and worked hard to build a thriving business, not from the perspective of government or Washington politics.

Politicians in Washington are debating a variety of proposals to use taxpayer dollars to bail out big businesses and stimulate our economy.

Let me be clear: we should not bail out large corporations that have enjoyed years of growth and prosperity. I won’t support it.

The people that need help the most are small businesses, hourly workers, people who rely on tips, and gig economy workers like Uber and Lyft drivers.

Here’s how I would help them. First, we should significantly increase federal assistance to state Unemployment Insurance programs, and change the corresponding regulations to allow states the ability to open the fund for workers to immediately access if they are out of work, temporarily out of work, or have reduced hours. I believe this is the quickest, most effective, and most fiscally responsible way to get money to the people who need it most.

Second, we should impose a 60-day moratorium on mortgages, rent, fees and utilities for both individuals making less than $75,000 a year and small businesses with less than 250 employees. Those payments would be postponed and paid out over the following 12 months.

The federal government should be a safety net for those who need it most. But even in times of crisis, we can’t forget about fiscal responsibility. We have $23 trillion in debt and trillion-dollar annual deficits, which will have long-term negative impacts on our children and grandchildren. The proposals being debated in Congress right now include giveaways to big corporations, mandates that will shut down small businesses, and policies that I fear won’t help the people that need it most.

But let’s also remember, the best economic stimulus is to get a handle on the crisis itself. When we do, our economy will thrive again.

We can do that by following the example of South Korea, which took decisive action to expand testing and enforce strict social distancing. South Korea’s mortality rate from coronavirus is less than 1 percent, compared to Italy where the death rate is almost 10 times higher.

The lesson here is this: we can’t neutralize the coronavirus completely, but we can stem the spread and we can limit the damage if we take bold action and we take it NOW.

If we want to get back to normal in the next 90 days here’s what we need to do.

1. Testing is the number one priority – that’s why we need mobile testing sites in every county in the country by the end of the week. There’s no excuse.

2. We need to shut down our borders to all foreign travel. It should have been done weeks ago, but we need to do it NOW.

3. Governors, who are best-equipped to understand the needs of their states, need to take decisive action to enforce aggressive social distancing. These enforcements should be done on the state and local level, but they should be done NOW. Governors must not take the view that it’s the federal government’s responsibility to keep their people safe.

4. We need to protect the supply chains for vital protective gear for our health care workers and first responders and I’ve called for attorneys general across the country to crack down on price gouging.

But we also have to recognize that the federal government can’t do everything. We all have a responsibility to take care of each other, take care of our families. We need to rely on churches and communities. We need companies to step up and do their part to help their employees during these trying times.

Look at Facebook, which announced a $100 million program to help small businesses. Amazon is hiring 100,000 new workers and giving raises to their current staff. Airline CEOs are cutting their salary to zero to avoid any layoffs. Some of these are merely symbolic steps, but setting a good example can be important.

I saw it in Florida every time there was a hurricane. People come together during times of crisis. We need that now more than ever.

All levels of government need to do more to handle this crisis and I’m working hard to make sure that’s the case.

But we also need to come together to take care of each other. I know we can, and because of that, I know America will get through this crisis.

Republican Rick Scott represents Florida in the United States Senate. Scott served as governor of Florida from 2011 to 2019.