Chairman Scott Remarks at Joint COVID-19 Oversight Press Conference
WASHINGTON – Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, delivered the following remarks during a press conference to discuss a joint Committee analysis on the Trump Administration’s disastrous response to the coronavirus crisis and the urgent need for a national comprehensive plan. Chairman Scott was joined by Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Richard E. Neal, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform.
“Thank you, Chairwoman Maloney and distinguished co-chairs, for your leadership in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As my co-chairs have said, the Administration has failed to provide a coherent, science-based plan to confront this pandemic and protect the lives and livelihoods of people across this country.
“As the Chair of the Education and Labor Committee, I have to report that nowhere has this failure been more apparent than in our workplaces and our schools.
“Simply put, the Administration has no plan to protect workers or safely reopen schools.
“Since the pandemic started, more than 120,000 health care workers have contracted the virus. Workers in grocery stores, prisons, nursing homes, meatpacking plants, and many other workplaces have also suffered preventable infections while on the job. An untold number of those workers have also lost their lives.
“Yet, the federal agency charged with protecting workers – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – has been missing in action. Despite repeated instances of workplace outbreaks, OSHA has issued just four coronavirus-related safety citations. Three of those were given to one nursing home company, and the fourth was for a recordkeeping violation.
“Somehow, the agency is still refusing to use its authority to issue an enforceable workplace safety standard that protects workers against airborne infectious diseases, like COVID-19. Instead, it continues to rely on unenforceable, voluntary guidance.
“The Administration is sending that same message to students, parents, and educators. We all want to get our children back in classrooms for in-person instruction, which is critical both for students’ success and for reopening our economy.
“Students do better academically when they are taught in person. They get better nutrition when they have access to school meals. They develop social and emotional maturity when they’re in school. We can detect child abuse if children are coming to school. And, let’s get serious, we’re not going to reopen the economy without reopening our schools.
“But this Administration has offered no plan to safely reopen schools.
“Most schools currently cannot afford the personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, infrastructure repairs, and other necessary measures to protect school communities.
“But, rather than develop a plan to safely reopen schools, the Administration has opposed or ignored both the Heroes Act and the Moving Forward Act, which provide nearly $200 billion to help schools reopen safely and $1 trillion to help state and local governments avoid deep cuts to public education because of revenue short falls.
“At the same time, the Department of Education is violating the clear text of the CARES Act by diverting emergency education aid – intended to support low-income, public school students – to fund services for students in private schools.
“As we enter the new school year, daily new COVID-19 cases now are 4 times higher than when schools first closed in March. Telling schools, “Reopen or I’ll cut your funding,” is not a plan. Students, parents, and educators deserve better.
“Thank you very much to our chairs for your hard work and I now want to turn it back over to Brenna to coordinate questions.”
Democratic Press Office, 202-226-0853
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