How we can work together to address the COVID-19 pandemic Here are more ways you can help: Emergency election procedures No one should have to choose between getting sick and participating in our democracy. To ensure that every eligible voter can safely cast their ballot amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. PIRG is calling on states to adopt emergency universal absentee voting. LEARN MORE SHARE THIS RESOURCE Protect consumer credit For many people, whether or not they can pay their bills or meet all of their financial obligations will be out of their control until after the COVID-19 crisis is over. Credit bureaus should stop all negative credit reporting about consumers until the coronavirus pandemic ends and consumers have made it back onto their feet. HOW YOU CAN HELP TAKE ACTION LEARN MORE Stop bad bailouts Congress and the president must focus on addressing the urgent health crisis and meeting the immediate needs of Americans — not rushing through hastily drawn-up bailouts to industries that harm our health or are not essential to Americans’ daily lives right now. LEARN MORE SHARE THIS RESOURCE 25 things to do at home Many people across the United States are bracing for weeks of school closures and social distancing and are searching for ways to make the most of this challenging period. To help parents grapple with the new realities of child-rearing during social distancing, we've come up with a list of 25 activities kids can do to make a positive impact from home. SEE OUR LIST SHARE THIS RESOURCE Get consumer alerts Sign up for our consumer alerts, and spread the word about unsafe products and other consumer risks to your friends, family and others. Sign-Up More actions and resources NEWS RELEASE: COVID-19 DEATHS REACH ANOTHER GRIM MILESTONE: 300,000 The number of U.S. deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic surpassed 300,000 on Monday, according to NBC News. News Release: A YEAR LATER ON AMAZON: COMPARING PRE-PANDEMIC PRICES TO TODAY'S FOR 750 PRODUCTS This is U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s third analysis of pandemic prices on Amazon over the past year, and the most in-depth to date. Our report uses data from Keepa, a price tracking tool with detailed charts on more than 1 billion Amazon products. We analyzed 15 product categories, with 50 listings per category, totaling 750 products. The numbers speak for themselves. BLOG POST: SIX QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE ALLOWING A CONTRACTOR INTO YOUR HOME DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC Being proactive and demanding can help keep you and your family safe. News Release: Money for nothing: Paying the same car insurance while driving less during the pandemic While COVID-19 is causing financial difficulties for tens of millions of Americans, auto insurers nationwide have made tens of billions of dollars in profit because consumers have driven significantly less during the pandemic. Blog Post: DId you auto insurance company refund you enough for driving less this year? State-by-state analysis shows companies financially benefited from fewer claims but barely compensated customers. Tip Guide: Protecting yourself from toxic hand sanitizers After the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) flagged five brands of potentially dangerous hand sanitizers in June, the list of products that may be contaminated with methanol has skyrocketed to about 60 brands, which makes 135 varieties of sanitizer. NEWS RELEASE: U.S. PIRG PROMOTES NATIONAL “WEEK OF MOURNING” U.S. PIRG is partnering with Marked by COVID for a national Week of Mourning, October 4th-11th, to mourn those lost to COVID-19 and to call for action to save lives. BLOG POST: HOME SAFE FOR THE HOLIDAYS Public Health Campaigns Director Matt Wellington and Dr. Syra Madad detail how people can safely gather this holiday season in the era of COVID-19. BLOG POST: RIDING A BUS, SUBWAY OR RIDESHARE? HERE’S A LOOK AT SAFETY MEASURES ADOPTED TO COMBAT COVID-19 From mask mandates to capacity limits, the largest public transit systems and ride share companies have new procedures. BLOG POST: WHICH RETAILERS REQUIRE CUSTOMERS TO WEAR FACE MASKS? Only four out of 20 major chain stores studied still allow customers to shop without face coverings. NEWS RELEASE: NEW CDC GUIDELINES OFFER RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SAFE VOTING DURING COVID-19 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidance for voting safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The agency’s recommendations center around how to reduce dangerous crowding at polling places and how to minimize the risk of infection when voting. BLOG POST: HOW THE PANDEMIC COULD CHANGE OUR STREETS FOR THE BETTER Cities across the country have opened up streets to pedestrians and cyclists during the pandemic. Here's the case for why they should stay open. REPORT: CFPB COMPLAINTS SURGE DURING PANDEMIC, LED BY CREDIT REPORT COMPLAINTS For the fifth consecutive month, consumer complaints to the CFPB set a new monthly complaint volume record in July, according to an analysis by U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group. This snapshot focuses on spikes in complaints about credit reporting. Blog Post: Is your state doing enough COVID19 testing? U.S. PIRG visited the state health departent websites for all 50 states to assess testing requirements and availability of testing sites. Blog Post: 20 Questions to Ask Your Nursing Home during COVID Whether you have a loved one currently in a nursing home or rehabilitation facility, or whether you’re shopping for one, you should arm yourself with a list of questions to gauge how safe the environment is. Here’s a guide to those questions, and the answers you should expect. News Release: 250,000 AMERICANS DEAD FROM COVID-19 This tragic milestone is a stark reminder that this virus will not go away on its own. Without swift, decisive, coordinated action by the federal government to minimize the damage, the death toll will mount throughout the winter, causing more grief, misery and long-term repercussions for millions of Americans. News Release: STUDENT GROUPS OUTLINE COVID-19 HIGHER ED FUNDING NEEDS A new coalition of student-lead associations and advocacy groups set out priorities for the next coronavirus response package and federal budget. News Release: Nursing homes endure massive PPE shortages Seven months into this pandemic, PPE shortages have become much worse, according to “Nursing home safety during COVID: PPE shortages,” a report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. Action: SUPPORT THE MEDICAL SUPPLY TRANSPARENCY & DELIVERY ACT Tell Congress to act now to improve the PPE supply chain so nursing homes have the masks, gowns and other supplies they need to protect residents and their caregivers. NEWS RELEASE: CONSUMER COMPLAINTS ABOUT COVID-19 FRAUD PASS 200,000 Consumer complaints to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) related to the coronavirus exceeded 200,000 on Thursday, Sept. 17, with a total of more than $140 million in fraud losses. This release summarizes actions by 15 federal agencies to stop fraud related to Covid-19 and offers consumer tips to report fraud and protect themselves against scams. News Release: Two-thirds of surveyed medical equipment repair people say they have fixed machinery the manufacturer could not Success of on-site biomedical engineers and technicians refutes manufacturers’ argument against Right to Repair. News Release: HEALTH ADVOCATES AND COVID-19 VICTIMS CALL ON GOV. DESANTIS TO RETHINK REOPENING As the official COVID-19 death count surpassed 210,000 Americans this week, health advocates and Floridians who have lost loved ones to the novel coronavirus commemorated their memories Thursday as part of a national week of mourning. BLOG POST: PROGRESS IN SOME STATES ON COVID-19, BUT DON’T POP THE CHAMPAGNE YET There's been some progress since U.S. PIRG and health experts across the country called on decision makers to shut down, start over, and do it right to contain COVID-19, but it's far too early to celebrate. Blog Post: A look back at U.S. PIRG's call to shut down, start over, do it right On July 22, with COVID-19 cases surging across the country, more than 150 top health care professionals joined U.S. PIRG in sending a letter to the Trump administration, to Congress, and to state governors, telling them it was time to shut back down, start over on coronavirus containment, and do it right this time. Fast-forward to October, with many states seeing a new uptick in cases and deaths — we clearly still have a long way to go in effectively suppressing COVID-19. But PIRG and our health professional partners (now more than 1,400 strong) have made some good progress in the past few months toward winning better, more health-centered policies as we move into the fall and winter. Blog Post: Why can I still buy toxic hand sanitizer? The FDA doesn’t have the authority to stop retailers from selling dangerous over-the-counter products such as toxic hand sanitizer. Our safety system is broken, and we need to fix it. Blog Post: Tenant protections from eviction and utility cutoffs vary by state The CDC implemented the eviction freeze on Sept. 4 to reduce the number of people on the streets who could get infected with and spread the COVID-19 virus. Landlords and other groups filed lawsuits attempting to strike down the halt on evictions, so the future of the policy remains uncertain. BLOG POST: DON’T LET COVID-19 KEEP YOU FROM NECESSARY CARE Wondering if it’s safe to seek out care now? Here’s three health care appointments you shouldn’t delay. Blog Post: The Maine way to stop COVID-19 in its tracks Maine's COVID-19 response sets an example for other states. BLOG POST: IF YOU’RE BEHIND ON YOUR MORTGAGE PAYMENTS, HERE ARE SOME TIPS Maybe you or a loved one are among the 30 million people who lost a job in the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Or maybe you’re one of the 18 million who no longer receives an extra $600 a week in unemployment. Or maybe you’ve taken a pay cut. If the COVID-19 pandemic affects your ability to pay, here’s what you need to know. NEWS RELEASE: NEW SENATE RIGHT TO REPAIR BILL TO REDUCE BARRIERS TO FIXING MEDICAL EQUIPMENT INCLUDING VENTILATORS Sen. Ron Wyden (OR) introduced the Critical Medical Infrastructure Right-to-Repair Act in an online press conference with U.S. PIRG on Thursday. The bill would remove manufacturer-imposed barriers to fixing medical equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing much-needed help to biomedical repair technicians (also known as biomeds). REPORT: HIGH COVID-19 PRICES PERSIST ON AMAZON U.S. PIRG Education Fund searched Amazon and other major retailers for 10 of the most popular COVID-19 consumer products, and found that ridiculous pandemic pricing is still an issue. News Release: SIX MONTHS INTO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, PRICE GOUGING PERSISTS ON AMAZON U.S. PIRG Education Fund searched Amazon and other major retailers for 10 of the most popular COVID-19 consumer products, and found that ridiculous pandemic pricing is still an issue. BLOG POST: THE RIGHT TO REPAIR COULD HELP ADDRESS A CRITICAL SHORTAGE IN SCHOOL COMPUTERS Buying a refurbished computer can save money and cut waste. It might also be a key strategy in addressing the digital divide. BLOG POST: SAFE TRAVEL INFORMATION FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS AND PARENTS As parents and students make trips across the country to return to college, you are probably wondering how to do so safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. This guide will outline some of the safer options. Tip Guide: IS YOUR MORTGAGE FORBEARANCE ENDING? If the COVID-19 pandemic affects your ability to pay, here’s what you need to know. Blog Post: Tips on what to pack for college during the COVID-19 pandemic The COVID-19 pandemic presents a whole new situation for college students. This guide outlines items that students should pack when they return to campus. News Release: GOV. NEWSOM MAKES THE RIGHT CALL TO SAVE LIVES Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a tiered reopening plan for California today based on the risk of community transmission of the virus by county. Counties in the “widespread” transmission category will have more stringent restrictions, with bars and indoor dining closed, and other activities restricted. Counties in the lower transmission tiers will be able to reopen further. Blog Post: Why we oppose U.S. Chamber's demand to shut courthouse doors, give corporations immunity from pandemic lawsuits Congress must reject demands from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to use the pandemic as cover to achieve one of their long-standing goals: making it nearly impossible for workers and consumers to hold companies accountable when they fail to use reasonable care to keep their operations safe. When America does return to work consumers and workers must have peace of mind that businesses are taking reasonable steps to protect them. The bottom line is that when nobody is accountable, nobody is safe. Congress must enact an additional Covid relief package to help struggling consumers, but shouldn't include the Chamber's corporate lawsuit immunity demand, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) continues to include in his latest proposed pandemic package. News Release: A NEW PROBLEM WITH HAND SANITIZERS: NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO KILL COVID-19 To be effective, sanitizers should contain high percentages of either of two forms of alcohol -- at least 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent isopropanol -- that are safe on human skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.In the last 10 days, the FDA has identified 20 sanitizers that didn’t contain enough ethanol, isopropyl or another active ingredient to be effective. Blog Post: Fall Meeting Student Basic Needs During COVID-19 The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting campuses nationwide. Here are a few of the ways that institutions are stepping up to meet students’ basic needs during the new term. Blog Post: What went wrong with the first COVID-19 shutdown? In the spring, we shut down our lives and our economy in hopes of reducing the spread of COVID-19 enough to be able to manage it through widespread testing and contact tracing. In spite of that shutdown, today the virus is raging virtually uncontrolled. We didn’t stick with it until the job was done. News Release: TEXPIRG STATEMENT ON GOV. ABBOTT’S REOPENING ANNOUNCEMENT It may be a hardship for all of us to stay home again, but it’s the only way we can get the virus under control so that we can fully reopen our state safely. News Release: HAND SANITIZERS POSE ONGOING THREAT TO CONSUMER HEALTH Consumers using hand sanitzer to kill the coronavirus may be unwittingly putting toxic substances on their skin. In the weeks since first discovering the problem, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has found nearly three dozen brands of potentially tainted sanitizer. Tip Guide: DISINFECTING YOUR HOME OR BUILDING SAFELY DURING COVID-19 Whether you operate a business, a church, a school or another building, you’re probably thinking about ways to disinfect your space to protect people from COVID-19. Likewise, consumers may consider large-scale cleaning if they’re moving into a new home or apartment. If you’re considering hiring a disinfection service, here are questions to ask. News Release: FUNDING FOR COVID-19 TESTING, CONTACT TRACING IS VITAL TO CURB THE VIRUS Public heath officials have been clear from the beginning that to contain the virus we need widespread fast and accurate testing capacity and a workforce of contact tracers. BLOG POST: SHUT DOWN, START OVER, DO IT RIGHT. Few people living today remember what it was like to live through a world war, but that’s what we’re in, and we’re going to have to sacrifice if we want to save ourselves and each other. Just as the greatest generation did, we need to step up to what history has delivered. NEWS RELEASE: GOV. POLIS SIGNS PRICE GOUGING BILL INTO LAW By signing these protections into law, Gov. Polis is giving Coloradans one less thing to worry about during this pandemic: that we won’t be ripped off on critical supplies we need to keep ourselves and our communities healthy. BLOG POST: A SIMPLE WAY TO THWART COVID-19 IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR FACES U.S. PIRG is calling on municipal, state and federal policymakers to mandate face masks in all indoor public spaces, as well as in outdoor locations where it’s hard for people to socially distance six feet apart. NEWS RELEASE: PROPRIETARY MEDICAL DEVICE REPAIR HARMS HOSPITALS, COULD THREATEN PATIENTS, DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC New report: medical device manufacturers have denied critical resources to nearly half of surveyed medical repair professionals since March. BLOG POST: WHICH AIRLINES ARE ENFORCING SOCIAL DISTANCING RECOMMENDATIONS? As states reopen across the country and Americans begin traveling again, it's important to know which precautions airlines are taking to keep passengers safe. NEWS RELEASE: HEALTH GROUPS CALL ON U.S. SENATE TO PROTECT EMERGENCY WORKERS A coalition of leading public health and medical groups in several states across the country are urging U.S. senators, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to establish central, transparent coordination of the medical supply chain in the next coronavirus stimulus package. BLOG POST: HOW CAN WE PROTECT PATIENTS IF WE DON’T PROTECT HEALTH CARE WORKERS? Health professionals still don't have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep themselves safe while they save lives. That's why we're calling for central, transparent coordination of the medical supply chain during the COVID-19 crisis. NEWS RELEASE: TEXPIRG STATEMENT ON GOV. ABBOTT SLOWING DOWN THE STATE’S REOPENING Gov. Greg Abbott halted the process of reopening Texas on Thursday amid a record-setting spike in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. In addition, the governor told four large counties across the state not to allow elective surgeries, to keep from overwhelming hospitals. In response, TexPIRG Director Bay Scoggin released the following statement. NEWS RELEASE: CUTTING FEDERAL FUNDING AND SUPPORT UNDERMINES COVID-19 TESTING EFFORTS The Trump Administration plans to end federal funding for 13 coronavirus test sites in five states (Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado and Pennsylvania), according to news reports. News Release: TO ENSURE SAFE, SECURE ELECTIONS, CONGRESS MUST IGNORE THE PRESIDENT AND FUND THE POSTAL SERVICE The USPS is not a tool to be manipulated for political purposes. Voters -- whether they be Democrats, Republicans or independents -- need its essential services to safely cast their ballots this fall. Without a functioning USPS. too many people will be forced to choose between their right to vote and potentially exposing themselves to COVID-19. BLOG POST: MASKING UP IS SUPPORTED BY SCIENCE - BUT REOPENING MULTNOMAH COUNTY IS NOT Multnomah County was given approval to proceed to Phase I even though it is still failing several of Governor Brown’s requirements - a decision that is not supported by the data. However, mandatory face covering has been clearly demonstrated to reduce the spread of COVID-19 - a fact that may allow for a more rapid reopening. News Release: NEW COALITION, “OPEN SAFE ILLINOIS,”ASKS DECISION MAKERS TO PUT SCIENCE, SAFETY FIRST WHEN IT COMES TO COVID-19 A new coalition of health, labor, aging and public interest organizations launched “Open Safe Illinois” on Thursday to amplify the voices of Illinois residents, the majority of whom support public health-driven decision making by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and local leaders. Action: TAXPAYERS DESERVE TO SEE THE RECEIPTS OF COVID-19 EMERGENCY SPENDING Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has announced that Americans may never find out how over $500 billion of taxpayer money has been awarded to businesses. Tell Congress to pass the PPP Transparency Act and get taxpayers the receipts. News Release: RURAL OREGON COUNTIES ARE SUFFERING UNCONTROLLED OUTBREAKS OF COVID-19 After nearly three months of fairly stable case numbers, new Sars-Cov-2 (“COVID-19”) infections have begun spiking in Oregon. Blog Post: Voting by mail is not only safe, it’s secure In response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) most states are letting anyone vote absentee for the spring and summer elections. Voting by mail is a safe, secure way fror people to cast their ballot because states, especially those who have a long history of voting by mail, have established strong safeguards to prevent improper voting. Blog Post: We still need expanded COVID-19 testing- including for protesters. Public health officials, mayors and governors are urging people who take part in mass demonstrations to get tested for COVID-19. Protesters, along with most Americans, need expanded access to testing, but the nation’s testing capacity is insufficient and ill-distributed, highlighting the need for national leadership and coordination. Blog Post: COVID-19 is bad. Dirty air makes it worse Several recent studies have suggested that air pollution may make COVID-19 infections more severe. These findings fit with previous research documenting how air pollution damages our bodies and makes us more vulnerable to infectious diseases. This new research should spur us to redouble our efforts to reduce air pollution. Blog Post: COVID cases are rising faster than ever in Oregon - It’s time to pump the brakes on reopening 4 weeks after Oregon counties began to reopen, confirmed COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are rising. The state must deny Multnomah County “Phase I” status until cases begin to fall again, and should delay any further “Phase II” approvals until ongoing outbreaks are contained. Blog Post: Superspreading events pose outsized risk of COVID-19 transmission Public health experts are starting to draw actionable lessons about the nature of how COVID-19 spreads. In addition to maintaining best practices –physical distancing, mask wearing and hand washing – it’s best to avoid extended, crowded indoor gatherings. Blog Post: CDC struggles with transportation policy in response to COVID-19 The CDC recently released new guidelines for employers in the wake of COVID-19 and there are some problems with its transportation-related recommendations. Blog Post: Is COVID-19 price gouging still a problem? A quick search of Amazon tells me yes. Blog Post: I’m reading the CFPB’s mail about the pandemic’s effect on family finances I’ve been reading the CFPB’s mail. It’s okay, you can too. It’s public. Not surprisingly, the latest CFPB consumer complaints paint a grim picture of the pandemic’s effect on family finances. I ask: Why isn’t the CFPB doing more to help struggling consumers? Blog Post: Waste during COVID-19: a mixed bag The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted and changed our lives in countless ways. Some of those changes have challenged our ability to handle and reduce our waste. Some changes have presented new opportunities. Blog Post: What you should do now to safely vote during COVID-19 Simple steps to participate in democracy and preserve your health. News Release: Consumer, Banking Groups Applaud Bill to Exempt Economic Impact Payments from Garnishment U.S. PIRG has joined leading consumer and banking organizations to applaud a bi-partisan Senate bill to broaden protections in the recent COVID-19 stimulus package. Under the CARES Act, Congress exempted Economic Impact Payments from offset for debts owed to federal and state agencies, except in the case of child support, but did not exempt them from court-ordered garnishment to pay creditors. Blog Post: Recycled batteries and junked trailers helping treat COVID-19 Electronics recycler Eric Lungren is donating light towers to help hospitals treat patients in emergency triage facilities. Blog post: Can't get a refund from your airline? Here's what you can do. Most airlines are only offering vouchers, not refunds, when passengers cancel their flights due to concerns about COVID-19. Blog Post: Mortgage servicers failed homeowners during the last recession. Let's not let that happen again. Tens of millions of Americans with mortgages have been put in a tough spot by the coronavirus crisis. Many more consumers will likely seek forbearance or loan modifications in the weeks and months ahead. Blog Post: “Life and death” -- Medical equipment repairers push for Right to Repair during COVID-19 pandemic As manufacturers block access to manuals and other fix-it information, biomedical repair technicians press for reform. Action: Take Action to Ensure refunds for cancelled air travel Thousands of Americans have cancelled travel plans as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the country -- but it's still nearly impossible to get money back from airlines for cancelled tickets. This bill will change that, requiring airlines to offer full refunds to all travelers who cancel their plans. News Release: Hospital repair professionals: Just let us fix life-saving devices like ventilators U.S. PIRG delivered a letter lawmakers Monday, May 18, signed by 326 hospital repair experts, calling for manufacturers to stop withholding what technicians need to fix medical equipment like ventilators. It’s part of U.S. PIRG's larger Right to Repair Campaign, which aims to remove unnecessary barriers to repair that drive up costs for product owners and increase electronic waste. Blog post: Testing and tracing-tools to keep the curve down We have the tools to prevent a second outbreak. Will we use them? News Release: House bill a major step forward in response to COVID-19 The U.S. House of Representatives passed the latest coronavirus stimulus package on May 15, The Heroes Act. The legislation includes provisions that would improve central coordination of the medical supply chain and testing infrastructure. News Release: Without “Safer at Home” order, state legislature and local governments must act immediately to prevent the spread The Wisconsin Supreme Court invalidated the Department of Health Services’ extension of the state’s stay-at-home order on May 13, with immediate effect. WISPIRG Director Peter Skopec issued the following statement in response. News Release: Maryland PIRG urges caution as some jurisdictions being reopening On May 13, Governor Hogan announced plans to lift the statewide stay at home order and ease state restrictions on retail, manufacturing, houses of worship, and some personal services. His announcement gives individual jurisdictions power to make decisions regarding the timing of reopening locally. Action: Help get critical medical supplies directly to areas in need We're calling on Congress to immediately pass the Medical Supply Transparency and Delivery Act, which would establish a central, transparent system for procuring and distributing critical medical supplies directly to impacted areas. Blog post: All patients deserve protection from surprise medical bills New federal limits on surprise medical bills protect some patients with COVID-19, but surprise bills are a problem for all patients. We call for a comprehensive solution to surprise billing. News Release: Every California voter to receive a mail-in ballot this November Governor Newsom’s Executive Order today expanding mail-in ballots to every registered voter is a no brainer for safe, secure elections in November. NEWS RELEASE: Health pros call for transparent federal coordination on medical supplies, COVID-19 testing U.S. PIRG, Get Us PPE and Doctors for America co-hosted a panel on which leading physicians and U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (N.J.) from the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis discussed how we can keep health care workers safe, so that they, in turn, can treat the general public. NEWS RELEASE: THIS WEEK IN COVID-19 VOTING NEWS MAY 8, 2020 We’re calling on states to start preparing now to ensure safe elections in November, including emergency expansion of vote by mail, sanitized and socially-distant polling places and other measures. NEWS RELEASE: STATEMENT SUPPORTING PUBLIC HEALTH-DRIVEN "RESTORE ILLINOIS" Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday released “Restore Illinois,” his administration’s plan to safely ease state restrictions on business, education, and recreation implemented in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The plan sets out five phases of reopening, with criteria for moving from one phase to the next, and the ability to move back if conditions worsen. EVENT: NONE OF US ARE SAFE IF HEALTH CARE WORKERS AREN'T A virtual panel hosted by U.S. PIRG, Doctors for America, and Get Us PPE. Health experts, physicians, and elected officials will discuss the challenges in obtaining personal protective equipment, the need for comprehensive testing infrastructure, and solutions to address supply chain issues, including a lack of coordination. ACTION: Tell your governor to order ventilator manufacturers to release vital service information for qualified biomedical techs We're calling on governors to issue executive orders compelling holdouts such as Dräger and Vyaire to loosen repair restrictions on ventilators. BLOG POST: THE PATH TO REOPENING MUST FOLLOW PUBLIC HEALTH GUIDELINES Americans are eager to move beyond the shelter-in-place phase of the coronavirus response. But many are still anxious about safety. Public health leaders have laid out our next steps. State and local officials should follow the experts’ advice. ACTION: Tell the White House: We need a centralized system for the purchase and distribution of medical equipment now. We're calling on the White House to help prevent price hikes and needless competition when it comes to crucial medical equipment by coordinating a centralized system for the purchase and distribution of supplies directly to areas in need. BLOG POST: U.S. PIRG SUPPORTS AUTOMATED CONTACT TRACING Public health experts have made it abundantly clear that to safely lift stay-at-home rules we must have four key things we don’t yet have. NEWS RELEASE: HEALTH PROS CALL FOR TRANSPARENT, CENTRAL COORDINATION FROM TRUMP ADMINISTRATION U.S. PIRG, Get Us PPE, Doctors for America, and several other health groups, along with nearly 300 medical professionals, sent a letter to the Trump Administration on Friday calling for central coordination of the medical supply chain and comprehensive testing infrastructure. BLOG POST: MY TESTING STORY A guest blog from Lisa Frank, from our grants team, sharing her story of testing for coronavirus. BLOG POST: SOCIAL MEDIA DAY OF ACTION CALLS FOR COVID-19 TESTING Everyone is eager to move away from sheltering in place, but public health experts tell us only a robust testing and tracing system will allow us to do so safely. ACTION: Tell the CFPB to keep debt collectors from harassing people during a pandemic Americans have enough to worry about without debt collectors harassing them or garnishing their much-needed stimulus payments from the CARES Act. ACTION: Ask governors to expand vote by mail Voters shouldn't have to choose between protecting their health and participating in our democracy this November. ACTION: Fund the postal service As COVID-19 keeps Americans confined to their homes, the U.S. Postal Service has been an essential service, delivering medicine, voting ballots and emergency relief checks to our homes every day. BLOG POST: WHAT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC MEANS FOR HEALTH INSURANCE The coronavirus pandemic is reminding us, once again, of how expensive the nation’s health care system is. It’s the high cost of health care that makes health insurance so expensive for individual consumers, employers and the nation, and the cost and structure of insurance can have real consequences for health. BLOG POST: WHAT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC MEANS FOR OVERALL HEALTH CARE COST Elizabeth Ridlington, Frontier Group Senior Policy Analyst explores some questions about how the coronavirus will affect health care spending overall and by governments, and the health care system itself. News Release: As White House puts responsibility for testing on states, U.S. PIRG calls for online #MoreTestsNow campaign U.S.PIRG is planning a social media day of action for Tuesday April 28, calling on President Donald Trump and Adm. Brett Giroir, the U.S. testing chief, to take charge of building a comprehensive testing infrastructure across the country. Citizens across the country are being asked to go on Facebook and Twitter to share the reasons why they want additional testing alongside the #MoreTestsNow hashtag. News Release: After Public Outcry, Ventilator Repair Restrictions Loosen U.S. PIRG has been calling on manufacturers of ventilators to release all the service information needed for biomedical technicians to repair that equipment. Increasingly, those companies are posting the requested information online. Blog Post: Consumer Groups & Bank Associations Urge Congress to Protect COVID19 Checks from Garnishment U.S. PIRG joined leading consumer groups and bank trade associations in a joint letter urging Congress at the soonest possible opportunity to clarify that economic impact payments responding to this public health emergency are exempt from otherwise legally binding garnishment orders. Blog post: America on pause - Vehicle travel during COVID-19 and what comes next Driving is down across America during COVID-19, but the trends vary from state to state. Our new blog post reviews which states saw the fastest drops in traffic and what the future might hold. News Release: How to save money and make safer online purchases during COVID-19 To help address concerns as they arise, U.S. PIRG Education Fund is publishing new tip guides each week to help consumers navigate this crisis. Blog post: We should close more streets to cars to keep people safe during COVID-19 Closing streets (or parts of streets) to non-necessary cars on some routes around grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals and other essential locations can help make travel safer during a time of necessary physical distancing. It will also create safe passages for people to walk and bike, which may also help reduce crowding in parks and on trails, where people have been congregating in an attempt to get outside and get exercise during quarantine. Blog Post: U.S. PIRG to Federal Reserve - Don’t keep the public in the dark on stimulus The biggest stimulus package in U.S. history deserves the most transparency in U.S. history. Nothing could be clearer than that. Public comment submitted to the Federal Reserve by R.J. Cross and U.S. PIRG. Blog Post: The Music Of Human Life We should preserve the new city soundscape even after this crisis and social distancing end. Blog Post: COVID-19 and the question of priorities To keep the sickest people alive during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we need ventilators. We don’t have them — and that says something about our priorities. News Release: U.S. PIRG calls on Congress to fund the U.S. Postal Service U.S. PIRG is calling on Congress to act immediately to keep the postal service open and serving the American public. Specifically, it must include the financial relief USPS needs as part of the fourth COVID-19 relief package. News Release: Former CFPB Director Rich Cordray offers insights on consumer protection, government response to COVID-19 During an online discussion hosted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Richard Cordray laid out urgent consumer protection priorities for Congress and the Trump administration, while offering advice to consumers struggling at this difficult time. Blog Post: Call "time out" on highway boondoggles Given the recent steep drop in highway traffic, and associated lost gas tax revenues, some federal aid to state transportation agencies seems likely. But the emergency caused by COVID-19 should not lead us to rush to complete the build-out of highway projects that were bad ideas in the first place – much less fuel a new round of wasteful highway construction under the guise of “stimulus.” News Release: Five state treasurers call on ventilator manufacturers to remove repair restrictions U.S. PIRG has been pressuring ventilator manufacturers to remove restrictions on who can fix these life-saving devices. Our efforts, along with those of our allies at Repair.org, got a boost when five state treasurers sent a letter to manufacturers calling for them to release proprietary repair manuals, service keys, schematics and repair software. Blog Post: Debt collectors are going after consumers during the COVID-19 crisis. It’s time for the CFPB to step up. Consumers right now face unprecedented vulnerability - and they need an unprecedented level of protection, including from the top cop on the financial beat, the CFPB. Blog Post: Creating Space to Vote COVID19 has changed our relationship to space. It will also require changes to the way we vote. EVENT: A CONVERSATION WITH RICH CORDRAY, AMERICA'S CONSUMER WATCHDOG To help you make the best financial decisions in this chaotic time, we're hosting a Facebook Live roundtable with Richard Cordray, the first director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Action: GIVE CAREGIVERS A LITTLE CREDIT More than 40 million Americans spend time caring for children or elderly family members without pay -- and that figure doesn't include the millions more that have joined their ranks to look after their young, elderly or ill loved ones since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. Families who want to take care of those they love should have all the support they need. Blog Post: COMPREHENSIVE TESTING NEEDED NOW! We are just weeks away from the United States’ expected COVID-19 peak, and as scores of state and local officials are making clear, rather than rollbacks, we need broader testing capacity with the federal government leading the effort. News Release: Consumer complaints of COVID-19 fraud surpass 15,000 Scammers and other bad actors are trying to take advantage of Americans’ heightened fears around the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and fraud complaints are soaring. Consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) related to the virus surpassed 15,000. News Release: COVID-19 consumer tips - Scams, utility bills and your stimulus check New guides and tips each week to help consumers navigate the COVID-19 crisis. News Release: The Federal Reserve’s new programs must be transparent to the public Never before, not even during the Great Recession in 2008, has the Federal Reserve directed so much money to help so many companies so quickly. Its unprecedented efforts may prove essential. But with unprecedented power comes unprecedented responsibility to inform and engage the public. News Release: Americans need a truly independent watchdog for the biggest stimulus package in history President Donald Trump announced yesterday he was removing the independent head of the federal watchdog panel charged with overseeing disbursement of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act funds, less than two weeks after Congress passed the stimulus bill to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. In response, U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget advocate R.J. Cross released a statement. Blog post: A reluctant convert to vote-by-mail A blog by Kirk Weinert, senior writer and advisor for The Public Interest Network on the need for emergency universal vote-by-mail. Blog post: Defusing a “rigged to blow” economy: Rebuilding resilience in a suddenly fragile world The emergence of the novel coronavirus has been a shock to our health care system, our economic system, our communities, our relationships and our psyches. What makes some of those systems more able to absorb, respond and rebuild from shocks than others? News Release: Wisconsin leaders fail to ensure safe election during COVID-19 Wisconsin is holding its spring elections Tuesday despite the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak causing a state stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines that advise against gatherings of any size. Peter Skopec, director of WISPIRG, issued the following statement in response. Blog Post: Cordray To "Oblivious" CFPB: "Shield" Families From Economic Harms Rich Cordray, the first director of the CFPB, has issued a powerful memo to its current director, Kathy Kraninger, urging her to stop "relaxing" duties on financial firms and to "lose no further time" in "shield[ing] households and families" from the "economic harms" they face as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. News Release: Price gouging on medical equipment risks lives, 90 mayors call for action A new investigation by ProPublica, along with reporting by numerous other outlets, has revealed that suppliers are using the COVID-19 public health emergency to drive up prices exorbitantly on medical equipment. News Release: How to address bill payment challenges during COVID-19 U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a guide with tips for how consumers can negotiate with their banks to lower interest rates, waive overdraft fees, and agree on payment plans to provide more financial peace of mind in the months to come. Action: CALL ON YOUR STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL TO INVESTIGATE AMAZON PRICE GOUGING Nearly one in six of the products sold directly by Amazon had price spikes 50 percent higher than the average price. Urge your attorney ageneral to protect consumers from being taken advantage of during this pandemic by investigating Amazon and other online marketplaces for enabling price gouging. Action: TELL AIRLINES to REFUND PASSENGERS FOR CORONAVIRUS CANCELLATIONS Deciding not to fly is a healthy choice during the novel coronavirus pandemic, as the CDC recommends we all practice social distancing. Travelers who cancel their plans to protect their health shouldn't have to take a financial hit for making a responsible choice. News Release: President Trump takes crucial step of activating Defense Production Act to get more ventilators In response to a critical shortage of ventilators needed to keep severe COVID-19 patients breathing, President Donald Trump ordered General Motors to produce the life-saving machines under the Defense Production Act. NEWS RELEASE: Who will receive up to $4.5 trillion in corporate bailouts? Taxpayers deserve transparency. Congress is poised to approve spending more tax dollars in a single stimulus bill than ever before in U.S. history. With so much money on the line, taxpayers need to know that their dollars will be well spent. NEWS RELEASE: 33 Attorneys General demand online marketplaces end Coronavirus price gouging A bipartisan group of attorneys general from 33 states, led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, are calling on the country’s top online marketplaces to crack down on price gouging amidst the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. BLOG POST: MY CORONAVIRUS TESTING STORY How limitations in testing hurt our ability to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, a blog from Laura Deehan, CALPIRG Public Health Advocate. ACTION: Urge Congress to protect our buses and trains during COVID-19 Health care professionals, sanitation workers, grocery store clerks, and millions of other Americans rely on safe, clean and reliable public transportation every day. NEWS RELEASE: Dealing with pandemic-related scams, hazards and financial challenges Our experts are also available to answer questions about consumer issues related to the COVID-19 outbreak. ACTION: Protect frontline workers from coronavirus We're calling on the U.S. secretary of labor to enact an emergency standard to protect frontline workers, including first responders and health care workers, from the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Ensuring their safety will help ensure all of ours. Action: Stop Reckless deregulation To prevent economic disaster in the face of the disease's spread, we need strong regulation more than ever — but big banks are using the coronavirus as an opportunity to call for reckless deregulation. Blog Post: Make Sure Everyone Who Needs a Test Gets a Test Without adequate testing for the novel coronavirus, health professionals are in the dark. We are calling on Adm. Brett Giroir, who is the Assistant Secretary for Health and the federal point person for COVID-19 testing response, to immediately adopt and follow through on a plan to make sure that everyone who needs a test, gets a test. BLOG POST: MEETING STUDENTS' BASIC NEEDS Many college students are worried about how campus shutdowns will affect their ability to put food on the table and pay bills. Here are a few of the ways that institutions are stepping up to meet students’ basic needs in this moment of uncertainty. NEWS RELEASE: U.S. PIRG URGES CONGRESS TO FREEZE STUDENT LOAN REPAYMENT DURING CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK Congress needs to relieve the financial pressures of social distancing so that people don't need to choose between their family's health and paying the bills. Cancelling student loan payments for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic will allow Americans to keep food on the table and stay safe.