Coronavirus stimulus vote signals ‘being out-of-touch’

When Congress passed the most recent coronavirus stimulus package bill last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was the only House Democrat to vote against it.

The bill put an additional $300 billion into the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as a way to help businesses across the country deal with shutdowns and other economic shocks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The freshman congresswoman, commonly known as AOC, said that the bill didn’t do enough for families and small businesses, especially in her district, which has particularly been hit hard by the virus.

UNITED STATES – APRIL 23: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., wears a face mask as she walks down the House steps of the U.S. Capitol before the House vote on the $483.4 billion economic relief package on Thursday, April 23, 2020.(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Ocasio-Cortez’s primary opponent in the upcoming election, former CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, criticized the move.

“If she really cared, she would’ve come home after that last vote,” Caruso-Cabrera said on Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM recently (video above). “If she really cared, she wouldn’t drive away 25,000 jobs like she did. If she really cared, she wouldn’t be telling the poorest people in her district not to go back to work like she did earlier this week. She’s out of touch to tell people who are desperate for food that they shouldn’t go back to work. How out of touch can you be? She clearly hasn’t talked to her constituents.” 

AOC’s office did not respond to request for comment. 

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera will challenge Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in the Democratic primary on June 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, File)

‘Those are the people getting assistance in this bill’

During the vote, AOC blasted Republicans, accusing them of prioritizing big businesses over mom and pop shops.

“It is a joke when Republicans say that they have urgency around this bill,” she said. “The only folks they have urgency around are folks like Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Shake Shack. Those are the people getting assistance in this bill. You are not trying to fix this bill for mom and pops.”  

In the first round of small business loans from the government’s PPP, Ruth’s Chris Steak House (RUTH), Shake Shack (SHAK), and Potbelly Sandwich Shop (PBPB) all qualified, despite the fact that all three are publicly-traded companies and each generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue last year. 

All three companies, along with several other big restaurant chains that also qualified, announced that they would be returning their loans to the government.

Here in Queens, we have modern-day bread lines’

Caruso-Cabrera also criticized AOC for social distancing in what Caruso-Cabrera described as “her luxury apartment.”

“When the last vote happened for the stimulus bill, did you know she didn’t come home?” Caruso-Cabrera said. “She stayed in her luxury apartment in Washington, D.C. for a whole week with a Whole Foods in her lobby. So she couldn’t see that there were lines down the street in Jackson Heights for people desperate to get groceries.”

Patrons wait in line for a supermarket in the Corona section of the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Jackson Heights is part of central Queens, a section of New York with a high immigrant population that’s had more than 7,000 cases of coronavirus since the outbreak first hit the U.S. and is considered the New York epicenter of the virus.

“Here in Queens, we have modern-day bread lines, food pantries,” Caruso-Cabrera said. “And in these lines are people who used to do construction work, used to work in nail salons, did dry cleaning work. These people desperately need help. And they are very, very scared about what the future holds.” 

She continued: “When we hand out masks and food, they are grateful, but they want to know when this is coming to an end. And that’s what my opponent should be focused on is helping her constituents rather than ranting and raving like you saw her there.” 

The U.S. has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

‘My opponent talks to Twitter’

This wasn’t the first stimulus bill that AOC criticized. When the first one passed at the end of March, she blasted Senate Republicans for the “corporate bailouts” in the package, calling it “shameful.”

This time, aside from the lack of assistance for small businesses, AOC also criticized that funding hospitals was up for debate.

“We have to fight to fund hospitals, fighting to fund testing,” she said. “That is what we’re fighting for in this bill. It is unconscionable. If you had urgency, you would legislate like rent was due on May 1 and make sure we include rent and mortgage relief for our constituents.”

Nevertheless, Caruso-Cabrera was skeptical about AOC’s intentions.

“She claims she cares about hospitals,” she said about her opponent. “Yeah. She voted against $75 billion for hospitals. She voted against $25 billion for testing. This is obviously about her trying to raise her national profile, her constant grandstanding. And she does that at the expense of the people she represents.” 

Adriana is a reporter and editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.


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