Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced legislation Thursday that would tax the wealth gains of billionaires during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Make Billionaires Pay Act would slap a 60% tax on the wealth gains of billionaires from March 18 at the start of the U.S. outbreak through the end of the year. 

"The legislation I am introducing today will tax the obscene wealth gains billionaires have made during this extraordinary crisis to guarantee healthcare as a right to all for an entire year,” Sanders said in a press release.

"At a time of enormous economic pain and suffering, we have a fundamental choice to make,” he continued. “We can continue to allow the very rich to get much richer while everyone else gets poorer and poorer. Or we can tax the winnings a handful of billionaires made during the pandemic to improve the health and well-being of tens of millions of Americans.”

The proceeds of the emergency tax would “cover all necessary healthcare expenses of the uninsured and underinsured, including prescription drugs, for one year.” A Families USA study revealed that 5.4 million laid-off workers lost their health insurance between February and May of this year. 

Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., also threw their support behind the bill. 

“Not only is this a common-sense proposal, but it’s a moral one and Congress should be doing all we can to assist Americans struggling right now," Gillibrand said. 

A similar initiative has been proposed in the New York state legislature, which would impose a new capital gains tax on New Yorkers with $1 billion or more in assets. Supporters of the New York plan claim it would raise $5.5 billion a year. Detractors of the idea, such as New York Gov. Anthony Cuomo, argue it would cause wealthy New Yorkers to leave and move to states with lower taxes. 

The Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, reported in June that U.S. billionaires have become $565 billion richer since March 18. On the other hand, unemployment has skyrocketed to double-digits amid the pandemic. In the coming months, 43 million Americans are also at risk of eviction due to missed rent payments.