Sanders on Economic Stimulus: Act Now But Get It Right

WASHINGTON, January 31 - Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today pressed for passage of a stronger economic stimulus package than the House approved on Tuesday. He urged senators to increase help for senior citizens and veterans, and he said he would fight for substantial relief for people struggling to pay skyrocketing home heating bills.

"We have serious economic problems," Sanders said. "Let's pass an economic stimulus package quickly, but let's make sure we get it right."

The Senate Finance Committee recommended significant improvements to the House version of the bill, especially for seniors and veterans, Sanders said.

"Low-income senior citizens across this country are facing very serious economic problems and, like low- and middle-income working people, they also need help. That is why I strongly support the provision which will enable over 20 million senior citizens to get a $500 rebate."

Sanders also applauded the Senate committee version of the bill for providing a rebate to about 250,000 veterans who receive disability compensation and for extending unemployment benefits for 13 extra weeks in all states and for 26 weeks in states experiencing severe joblessness.

Still, Sanders said, the Senate should do more. He is fighting to expand the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. "Without increased home heating help, senior citizens on fixed incomes, persons with disabilities, and low-income families with children are in danger of going cold in Vermont and throughout the country. We must not let that happen. LIHEAP must be a part of this package."

During the last economic slowdown in 2001, Sanders was the first person in Congress to propose income tax rebates as a way to stimulate the economy, an idea that at the time was scoffed at by leading congressional conservatives. Now, he said, rebates are an important part of the current stimulus package, but investments that create good-paying jobs also are needed.

"Giving someone $500 or $600 alone will not fix the economic situations facing millions of Americans," Sanders said. "Putting Americans to work at decent-paying jobs and helping those most in need could do much more to strengthen the middle class and reduce the poverty rate."