U.S. PIRG and our sister 501(c)(3) group, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, have redirected our staff to respond to the novel coronavirus crisis. Below, I’ve summarized our response, which includes campaigns to protect Americans’ physical health, financial health, and the health of our democracy in these challenging times.
You can learn more about each of these efforts and engage with them at https://uspirg.org/feature/usp/responding-crisis.
In the years I’ve spent doing this work, I’ve never felt more grateful for and connected to the U.S. PIRG members and donors who help us watch out for all Americans.
Comprehensive COVID-19 testing: Widespread testing is critical to containing this pandemic, but the federal government is still not moving quickly enough to ensure more and better testing for everyone who needs it. We are calling on Admiral Brett Giroir, the Trump administration’s COVID-19 testing chief, to work with federal and state agencies and health experts to build up the fast, accurate, and comprehensive testing infrastructure we need.
Protect healthcare workers: As COVID-19 rages on, frontline healthcare workers still don't have enough of the equipment they need to protect themselves and care for their patients. U.S. PIRG is calling on Congress to pass the Medical Supply Transparency and Delivery Act, which would establish a central, transparent system for procuring and distributing critical medical supplies directly to impacted areas.
Release ventilator repair information: Hospitals must be able to repair ventilators and other critical devices, but right now, some manufacturers are still standing in the way. U.S. PIRG successfully pressured GE, Medtronic, and other manufacturers to release repair documentation and software, and we won’t stop calling for change until all manufacturers act.
Stronger action against price gouging: Some businesses and online marketplaces are selling critical medical supplies at inflated prices. U.S. PIRG is urging the Federal Trade Commission to take action and prevent sellers from taking advantage of consumers.
Protect consumer credit: For many people, their ability to meet all of their financial obligations will be out of their control until after this crisis is over. U.S. PIRG is calling on Congress to institute a moratorium on all negative consumer credit reporting.
Freeze student loan repayment: The COVID-19 pandemic has upended students’ lives, and many of them are struggling just to meet basic needs while continuing their education. U.S. PIRG is urging Congress to cancel all student loan payments for the duration of the pandemic.
Consumer protection resources: Consumers are struggling to navigate a rapidly changing marketplace, and bad actors are using this crisis to sell overpriced or phony products, launch new phishing scams, and more. PIRG Consumer Watchdog is rapidly responding to emerging threats with new Consumer Tips videos and guides.
Transparency in bailout spending: To keep the biggest bailout in U.S. history from becoming a special interest giveaway, taxpayers need accountability, and accountability depends on full transparency. U.S. PIRG has applauded recent steps toward transparency by the Federal Reserve, and we’re continuing to call for all money lent and spent to be disclosed in real time and in easily-searchable form on one comprehensive website.
Emergency election procedures: Proven systems and best practices to ensure safe, successful elections are right at our fingertips. U.S. PIRG and our network of state offices are advocating for all states to adopt an emergency absentee voting system that includes: online voter registration; vote-by-mail; and in-person Vote Centers available for those who need assistance voting, didn’t receive their ballot in the mail, or wish to register to vote on the day of the election.
Photo credit: Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Laboratories via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0