DALLAS–Senator Royce West (D-Dallas), unveiled his plans to help America be in a better position to respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic and also be prepared for future pandemics.
West’s comprehensive plan specifically calls for boosting medical manufacturing in the United States, increasing unemployment benefits nationwide, and providing support for rural students and schools to continue learning during pandemics.
“The government can and must do more than what we are seeing during the current crisis, and do more to prepare for the next time this happens–and it will happen,” West said. “We need a better plan in place for testing and medical readiness; we do not want to be caught flat-footed again. We need stronger, more accountable leadership. We need to shelter families from health and economic hardship, ramp up our medical manufacturing capacity, and have better contingency plans and technical support in place for public school students and teachers.”
Specifically, West said he wants to create federal tax credits to bring manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and medical device equipment back to the United States. “Tax policy will help encourage medical manufacturing companies to operate here. It’s essential given lower operating costs abroad,” West noted. “Let’s bring medical manufacturing back to this country and increase job growth; let us help Texas’s rural and economically distressed communities.”
West also called for federal aid for states, earmarked for helping public schools, junior colleges, and colleges; it should also provide students in rural areas with internet access through hotspots. He wants students, in need, to have access to digital devices that will allow them to continue their education during the pandemic.
“You cannot have high school students trying to do homework on a small cell phone because that is the only way they can get a signal in a rural area. This is currently happening because parents cannot afford satellite internet, or broadband is not available,” West noted. “Hotspots, laptops and tablets are an unplanned, unanticipated purchase for most rural schools right now. The federal government must step in and offset these costs.”
Finally, West said the federal government must increase unemployment benefits for Americans who lose their jobs. West proposed raising the federal minimum payment to 75 percent of a person’s full wages, for those earning under $75,000 per year, for a period not to exceed 26 weeks.
“High unemployment, in some industry sectors, such as oil and gas is already causing severe economic turmoil because so many Americans are out of work, or are taking pay cuts. We have to lessen the burden on our working families,” West said.