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House Unveils New COVID-19 Relief Package Draft With Loopholes for Fossil Fuel Corporations

by Ryan Schleeter

May 12, 2020

"Oil and gas lobbyists have thrown the book at Congress asking for tax breaks, additional subsidies, and loans. Congress needs to shut the door in their faces and focus on providing relief directly to people in the crosshairs of this crisis."

Activists Charlie Jiang with Greenpeace, right and Ntebo Mokuena of the Daily Kos, socially distanced and wearing masks, hold a banner painted with iconic representations of essential workers (a nurse in scrubs, postal worker in uniform, transit worker on the Metro) and a message - #ProtectEssentialWorkers, near the Capitol in Washington.

© Tim Aubry / Greenpeace

Washington, DC — Today, House leadership has unveiled the HEROES Act, a follow up to the $2 trillion CARES Act passed in March. The $3 trillion proposal includes additional funding for state, local, and tribal governments, resources for hospitals and COVID-19 testing, $25 billion for the US Postal Service, and another round of direct payments. It does not, however, include key provisions of the ReWIND Act, legislation introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Nanette Barragán (D-CA-44) to prevent oil corporations from exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic for financial gain [1].

In response, Greenpeace USA Senior Climate Campaigner John Noël said:

“Speaker Pelosi’s proposal today marks an important turning point in the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time, we are looking at a relief package that starts by putting workers and families before corporate polluters. But even this bill fails to put restrictions in place that would close the fossil fuel industry loopholes in the last relief package. Nor does it provide the certainty that all relief will be steered to the frontlines of the crisis and not to failing oil companies with direct access to the president. Oil and gas lobbyists have thrown the book at Congress asking for tax breaks, additional subsidies, and loans. Congress needs to shut the door in their faces and focus on providing relief directly to people in the crosshairs of this crisis.”

While the Trump administration remains focused on bailing out fossil fuel corporations, essential workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis still lack basic protections. The HEROES Act proposal includes some elements of the Essential Workers Bill of Rights, which is supported by more than 75 progressive organizations and more than one million people nationwide [2].

Noël continued:

“Even after pouring trillions of dollars into supporting businesses and propping up the economy, previous COVID-19 response efforts still left millions of essential workers high and dry. We’re glad to see House leadership respond by incorporating components of the Essential Workers of Bill of Rights in today’s proposal. None of us would be able to survive this crisis without the people risking their lives to provide healthcare, stock groceries, grow our food, and keep mass transit running. They should be Congress’s first priority, not corporate polluters.”

Instead of a no-strings-attached bailout for the oil industry, Greenpeace USA has put forth six policy priorities [3] for future COVID-19 stimulus efforts. In a letter sent on April 28, 2020, Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard urged Congressional leadership to transform our country in response to the COVID-19 crisis rather than return to an economy dependent on exploitation and extraction.

ENDS

Notes: 

[1] The ReWIND Act blocks executive actions the Trump administration has taken or has indicated an interest in pursuing in order to aid fossil fuel corporations, prevents banks receiving CARES Act funds from becoming owners of distressed oil and gas assets, blocks the waiving of royalty payments for public oil and gas leases, prevents the storage of private oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and puts a moratorium on new fossil fuel lease sales: https://barragan.house.gov/rewind-act-prohibits-bailout-of-fossil-fuel-industry-with-cares-act-funds-during-public-health-crisis/

[2] More than 1 million people have signed petitions calling on Congress to pass an Essential Workers Bill of Rights providing health and safety protections and economic security for those who have risked their lives continuing to work through the COVID-19 pandemic: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/sign-the-petition-become-a-grassroots-co-sponsor-of-an-essential-workers-bill-of-rights?source=20200420_EssentialWorkersCOVID_GPUSA&referrer=group-greenpeace-usa

[3] The letter and six policy priorities are available here: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/news/greenpeaces-priorities-for-upcoming-covid-19-stimulus-packages/

Contact: Ryan Schleeter, Senior Communications Specialist, Greenpeace USA: +1 (415) 342-2386, [email protected]

Ryan Schleeter

By Ryan Schleeter

Ryan Schleeter is a senior communications specialist with Greenpeace USA covering climate and energy. His writing has appeared in National Geographic, Grist, GreenBiz, EcoWatch, and more. Find him on Twitter @ryschlee.

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