U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, said Friday that some of the current approaches to dealing with the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic might just make things worse.
Paul, who was one of eight senators to vote against the $100 billion federal coronavirus aid package approved Wednesday, outlined in a Daily News interview the steps he thinks the government should be taking.
The aid package, dubbed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, makes coronavirus testing free, requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide two weeks of paid sick leave and increases funding for unemployment, among other measures. Meanwhile, there is also talk in Washington of sending checks of $1,000 or more to most Americans to spur the flailing economy.
But Paul said “the best way to help people is unemployment expansion.”
He said the people who have lost jobs because of the crisis “need immediate help. I don’t think people who are still working should get a check.”
He said he is also against mandatory paid sick leave for small employers, saying many “will just let people go” rather than pay the sick leave. He said mandated paid sick leave “will make the problem only worse.”
Paul had called for the coronavirus aid package to be offset by other spending cuts.
“I believe debt is bad for the country. I’ve been consistent in saying that,” he said, adding that any spending increase is an opportunity to “take money from more wasteful programs.”
As for the health crisis, he said he is hopeful that the “extreme measures will dramatically slow it down,” referencing the widespread closures of businesses and government facilities.
He said an added benefit to the quarantining will be a reduction in flu cases.
As for the federal government’s response to the pandemic, he said the U.S. is “under-testing” potential virus carriers.
He is pushing a measure to ease federal restrictions on testing, allowing for more facilities to run tests.
“We have to be faster on this,” he said.
President Donald Trump in 2018 disbanded the President Barack Obama-created Directorship for Global Health Security, and until recently has been downplaying the severity of the virus, saying as late as Feb. 25 that the 15 coronavirus cases at the time “is going to be down to close to zero.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now puts the number of U.S. cases at more than 15,000 with more than 200 deaths as of Friday afternoon.
“We did make some mistakes,” Paul said, but in a time of a “calamity,” he said he doesn’t want to “dwell on pointing fingers.”