Congressional Coronavirus Response Makes Down Payment to Safeguard Elections as Well as the Economy

Statement of Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause

Congress’s revised Coronavirus emergency response package provides critical funds to address our public health crisis, offers a lifeline to struggling Americans, and makes a significant down payment toward safeguarding our democracy. Every American expects and deserves to have their vote counted and their voice heard in our democracy, and the $400 million in election funding for states and localities is a step in the right direction. That total is nearly triple what Senate Republicans proposed in their initial bill. However, given the recent health crisis, states and localities immediately need significantly more resources to make critical investments to ensure that all voters can participate in free, fair, orderly, and safe elections this year, or else millions of voters could be disenfranchised. These resources need to be made available as soon as possible to prepare for the health and safety concerns around upcoming primaries and general elections while offering all feasible methods of voting to give voters the chance to participate in the election.

Critical oversight protections have also been added to the stimulus package to prevent the Trump Administration from using the bailout funds to reward allies and family members. Public officials and their families should not benefit from this stimulus, and the bill correctly excludes the President, Vice President, Members of Congress and their families from receiving these funds.

Few things would be worse than allowing stimulus funds to be used to perpetrate a fraud on the American public in a time of crisis. To prevent this, the legislation creates an oversight board and includes important transparency measures to ensure that resources go where they are most needed, and not wealthy corporations or special interests.  Without these meaningful transparency and oversight provisions, the public would be left in the dark as to whether taxpayers’ hard-earned money actually serves the public over special interests. Common Cause brings decades of oversight experience to this critical moment in history and will work vigilantly to ensure that the public’s investment in our national recovery is well spent.

It is vitally important that we provide funds to ensure the Census provides an accurate count of everyone. The repercussions of the Census will be felt in communities across our nation in terms of political representation and the allocation of critical government funding – for everything from schools and firehouses to roads and bridges.  It is unfortunate that this package does not include necessary funding or paid leave for temporary census workers that will be on the front lines of democracy during this crisis.

While the final package provides some funding for rural broadband and telehealth services, we are disappointed to see it does not adequately address remote learning needs or the affordability gap in broadband access. Millions of students lack a broadband connection at home, and millions of households struggle to afford connectivity.  It is vital that children continue their education while physical schools are closed, and that every American stay connected as we all navigate the unchartered waters of this crisis. We are hopeful that the broadband funding provisions in the House bill are considered in the next stimulus package. However, regardless of any future package, the FCC can and must do more to address the broadband connectivity needs of all Americans during this pandemic.

We will continue to push for timely, critically needed additional election funding, broadband funding, and protections for the Census in future stimulus packages to ensure that all Americans can have our voices heard and be counted during this pandemic. Our democracy demands it, and we the people deserve nothing less.