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WASHINGTON – Congress is expected to pass the largest economic stimulus plan in U.S. history later Friday, totaling $2.2 trillion, in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The package, as it stands at the beginning of the day, includes $500 billion in funding for bailouts, and also allows the Federal Reserve to leverage the majority of that money into $4.5 trillion in lending and asset-purchase programs, with the aim of stabilizing the economy.
In response, U.S. PIRG’s Tax and Budget advocate R.J. Cross released the following statement:
“The novel coronavirus presents an unprecedented crisis for our country and demands an unprecedented government response. Congress is poised to approve spending more tax dollars in a single stimulus bill than ever before in U.S. history. With so much money on the line, taxpayers need to know that their dollars will be well spent.
“This is especially true of the money set aside for corporate bailouts. The stimulus package does little to specify which corporations will receive money from the Treasury’s $500 billion fund. It also does not detail how the Federal Reserve will leverage those funds into larger financial assistance and who, exactly, will benefit from those measures. The lack of clarity makes one thing obvious: To keep these enormous funds from becoming a special interest giveaway, we need accountability, and accountability depends on full transparency.
“In America’s last go-round with massive corporate bailouts following the 2008 financial crisis, citizens, watchdogs and even the bailout’s own appointed inspector general had to fight tooth and nail to figure out where and how money from the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program was spent. Taxpayers cannot afford a repeat of that secrecy.
“After 10 years of grading states on how they disclose their spending, we have learned what transparency should look like. In the year 2020, a spreadsheet on a bureaucrat’s computer is not enough. All money lent and spent must be disclosed online where Americans can see it. All of the information must be hosted on a single website, not scattered across the internet. The information must be comprehensive, with all recipient companies explicitly named, along with how much money they receive – no exceptions. And all information must be user-friendly, understandable and updated in real-time so citizens, watchdogs, and elected officials alike can find answers to their questions.
“Accountability prevents corruption, but accountability is only possible with transparency. Transparency helps ensure that money purportedly spent to benefit the public actually delivers results – a crucial need when taxpayers may find themselves on the hook for trillions of dollars.
“The biggest bailout in U.S. history demands the most transparency in U.S. history. Nothing could be clearer than that.”
“There will be more relief packages. The American people should know what’s in them.”
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