Why Alaska’s Rep. Don Young opposed ‘socialist’ coronavirus aid bill but would likely vote for it now

U.S. Rep. Don Young (Wesley Early,/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska Congressman Don Young has only praise for the CARES Act, the massive coronavirus stimulus bill the House passed last week and President Trump signed into law.

Young, in a teleconference with Alaska reporters, ticked through some of the benefits of the $2.2 trillion bill, including student loan relief and enhanced unemployment pay.

“Financial assistance – A lot of people have heard about that, when every person will get $1,200 … (and) $500 per child,” he said.

Just two and a half weeks ago, in a speech in Palmer, Young derided a much smaller coronavirus stimulus proposal. He complained then that a House bill intended to help families and workers cope with the economic hardship was stuffed with “socialist” ideas.

At the March 13 event at a senior center, Young encouraged people to remain calm in the face of the “beer virus.” He said the nation should continue its normal activities. He blamed the media for stoking an overreaction and cautioned against spending money the country doesn’t have. 

“We’re going to borrow that money from the future generations to solve a problem right now that’s been created primarily by hysteria,” Young said, as recorded by reporter Tim Rockey of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman. “We have to think about that. That’s not a healthy thing to do.”

Catch up on the latest coverage of coronavirus in Alaska.

A few hours after that speech, the House approved the $105-billion Families First coronavirus bill. The bill requires some employers to provide paid sick leave in exchange for tax credits, expands unemployment benefits and provides free coronavirus testing.

Young skipped the vote. In Palmer, Young called it a “dumb bill” filled with “every little socialist idea in the world.”

But on Monday, Young offered a different perspective when asked what he’d do if he were given a second chance to vote on Families First.

“I probably would have voted for it, but that was the very beginning of this pandemic, and there was a lot of questions about it then,” he said.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

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