Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer admitted Friday that regardless of any other COVID-19 relief efforts, the economy won’t be able to recover unless the schools are opened, according to The Hill.
Schumer, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have been locked in negotiations with the White House and Republican leadership, trying to agree on a COVID-19 economic relief package. Those talks have stalled, and Schumer criticized Republicans for not being willing to spend enough to help the country, which he said includes funding to help schools reopen safely.
“If we don’t open up the schools, you’re going to hurt the economy significantly because lots of people can’t go to work,” Schumer said. “Executive orders leave out schools altogether.”
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters Friday that President Donald Trump will use executive orders to address some economic issues, including unemployment benefits, rental foreclosures, and student loans.
A timeline is not set for when such orders might be signed, but they could be done over the weekend, according to The Hill.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time for us to finalize these and process them but we’ll do them as quickly as we can because the president wants action,” Mnuchin said.
Schumer’s stance on school reopening is surprising, considering public polling has indicated that the issue of whether to reopen schools has been split down partisan lines, with Democrats favoring online instruction and Republicans favoring reopening schools for in-person classes.
The country is deeply divided over how to proceed with schools, with 55% of respondents opposed to reopening in the fall. At the same time, 59% of parents say they’re concerned about their children falling behind because of school closures.
Most Republicans, 79%, support schools reopening in the fall, while most Democrats, 78% want schools to operate remotely during the fall semester. Most schools across the country closed in the second half of March or early April in the spring.
The American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers unions in the U.S., authorized local chapters to go on strike if schools reopen with plans not approved by the union. The AFT has approximately 1.7 million members. Teachers have held protests around the country claiming that many children and teachers could die if schools reopen.