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Concern About the Direction of the Next Federal Stimulus Bill

Congressional leaders are discussing the shape and size of the next federal stimulus bill. The following critique argues that the next bill should do more to expand testing, contact tracing, and quarantine capacity at the state level.
April 15, 2020, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Drive-Through Coronavirus Testing
William A. Morgan

Ben Adler takes a look forward at the likely shape of the next federal stimulus and makes a brutal assessment of the federal government's approach to the public health and economic crisis facing the country: "Congress remains perversely determined to treat the symptoms, rather than the illness."  

Instead of addressing the public health crisis directly (the illness), according Adler, "the disaster that the next round of stimulus will address, according to media accounts, is the same as the last one: the financial losses to businesses and workers caused by the social distancing measures put in place to limit the spread of the new coronavirus."

While funding for hospitals and an economic safety net for businesses indirectly supports the fight against the coronavirus, according to Adler, restarting the economy and defeating the coronavirus will require testing and contact tracing capacity like those in place in South Korea. The United States hasn't even begun to build to build that capacity.  

What would such a federal effort look like? For one thing, it would involve a lot more aid to state and local governments earmarked for the purpose. “It means a massive infusion at the state and local level, because the people who are going to do the testing, do the contact tracing, are all state and local people,” said Gregg Gonsalves, a professor of public health at Yale. “The last bill has $150 billion to state and local governments, but they’re losing sales and income tax revenue, so $150 billion doesn’t even begin to meet the lost revenue gap. Money has to flow to the states to do the shoe leather epidemiology.” 

More details on how the current federal efforts are falling short of treating the illness, rather than treating the cure, follow in the source article.

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Published on Monday, April 13, 2020 in The New Republic
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