Today, Common Cause called on Congress to prioritize funding for key elements of our democracy in the next COVID-19 emergency supplemental appropriations bill (“CARES 2.0”). The letter urges every Member of Congress to designate sufficient funding in the stimulus package to secure essential pillars of our democracy threatened by the pandemic and to ensure proper safeguards are put into place to oversee government disbursement of trillions of dollars in stimulus funds. The elements highlighted in the letter include critical efforts to safeguard our elections, the Census, the U.S. Postal Service, access to broadband internet service, as well as local journalism and to fully staff and prioritize the CARES Act Congressional Oversight Commission.
“As Congress addresses the public health emergency and the economic crisis, it is vitally important that the House and Senate also take steps to buttress key pillars of our democracy that are threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn. “Americans are facing great challenges and being asked to make great sacrifices during the current crisis and we expect our elected leaders to take action to ensure that we the people are kept safe, informed, connected, and represented. Our democracy can never be an afterthought regardless of the crises we face as a nation, and that is why it is critical that Congress move to safeguard our elections, the Census, the Postal Service, access to broadband, independent local journalism, and government oversight, especially during times of crisis.”
The letter calls on Congress to take the following actions to safeguard our democracy during the current crisis:
- Invest at least $4 billion in our elections to ensure no Americans have to decide between their health and their right to vote and ensure that the 20% state match requirement is removed;
- Guarantee at least $2-3 billion a month for the duration of the pandemic for broadband to ensure communities have access to robust and affordable connectivity;
- Provide at least $5 billion to support local journalism so all Americans can continue to receive reliable news throughout this pandemic;
- Provide: 1) increased funding for the Census to ensure all residents are counted; and require the Census Bureau to spend the $1 billion it currently has in reserve; 2) paid sick leave for temporary census workers; and 3) income exclusions for census workers receiving SNAP, Medicaid/CHIP, and TANF benefits;
- Ensure sufficient funding for the United States Postal Service so all Americans can continue to be connected; and
- Appoint a chair for the CARES Act Congressional Oversight Commission to ensure that taxpayers’ hard-earned money is appropriately allocated and used to promote permissible purposes, as well as protect inspectors general by ensuring that they can only be fired for cause.
The letter emphasizes that the COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge to our democracy, and stresses that Congress must act decisively to buttress key pillars of our democracy or face potentially catastrophic consequences.
To read the full letter, click here.