The Unemployment Emergency Ahead

The Unemployment Emergency Ahead

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Plus - Biden's $2 trillion green energy plan
Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Trump Admin May Be Open to Extending Emergency Unemployment Aid, but Time Running Out

With the $600-a-week federal boost to unemployment benefits set to expire later this month, potentially leaving millions of Americans facing a financial crunch, some senior Trump administration officials have begun signaling that they’d go along with a modified extension of the payments.

The Washington Post reports:

"One potential compromise discussed by Republican lawmakers would involve cutting the unemployment benefit from $600 per week to between $200 and $400 per week and making up at least part of the difference by sending another round of $1,200 stimulus payments."

White House spokesman Judd Deere told the Post that the administration opposes continuing the current $600 weekly increase and argued, as administration officials have for months, that the extra benefit gives workers no incentive to return to their jobs. But he did not rule out a more limited extension. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that any extension of enhanced benefits would ensure that unemployed workers get "no more than 100%" of what they would have earned at their job.

Time is running short: The Senate is set to return from recess on July 20, just five days before the enhanced benefit will expire in every state but New York, where it will end a day later. But the GOP has yet to reach consensus on the issue, and the Post says serious bipartisan talks haven’t begun.

Republicans are reportedly crafting a coronavirus relief package with the White House that is expected to cost about $1 trillion, or about a third the size of the HEROES Act legislation passed by the House in May, which would extend the $600 weekly unemployment payments for six months. Republicans dismissed the Democratic legislation as an expensive liberal wish list. The GOP package, which reportedly would include financial incentives for schools to reopen, is expected to be unveiled as soon as next week.

Doubts about a deal:
That leaves little time — and lots of issues to be resolved — before the House is set to leave for its August recess. "They don’t have time, which is what is very scary about all this," Bill Hoagland, senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former Republican staff director for the Senate Budget Committee, told the Post. "It’s very irresponsible."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN Tuesday that she’s willing to put off or cancel the scheduled August recess in order to reach a deal on the next coronavirus relief package, including unemployment benefits.

In the meantime, millions of Americans would face serious financial hardship once the benefit expires. More than 30 million Americans would see an income cut of between 50% and 75% if the benefits go away, economist Ernie Tedeschi, who worked in the Treasury Department during the Obama administration, projects.

"We’d basically have to choose between paying bills and eating," one woman who was furloughed from her job at the end of April told the Post. "I honestly don’t know what I would do."

Biden Outlines $2 Trillion Green Energy Plan

Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a plan to spend $2 trillion over four years on green energy, transportation and infrastructure.

The plan is part of a sweeping proposal to address climate change while also boosting an economy still reeling from the coronavirus recession.

"When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs,’" Biden said in a speech delivered in Wilmington, Delaware.

More money, faster: Earlier in the campaign, Biden offered a $1.7 trillion climate plan spread out over 10 years. But in a sign of Biden’s leftward shift, and growing concerns about the need to spur economic growth, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has increased his proposed spending while accelerating the timetable.

A boost for electric cars: Among the many proposals is a plan to subsidize consumers who trade in gas-powered cars for American-made electric vehicles.

Carbon-free power in 15 years: Biden calls for the elimination of carbon pollution from the power sector by 2035, and a 100% "clean energy economy" by 2050.

For more details, see Biden’s campaign website and reports in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Quote of the Day

"This is not a normal recession. The recessionary part of this you’re going to see down the road. You will see the effect of this recession. You’re just not going to see it right away because of all the stimulus."

– JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon

More Than 5 Million Have Lost Health Insurance Due to Coronavirus: Study

About 5.4 million workers who lost their jobs between February and May are now uninsured, according a new analysis from Families USA, a nonpartisan consumer health advocacy organization.

The increase in the number of uninsured surpasses the annual record set during the recession in 2008, when 3.9 million workers lost their health insurance, the group said Tuesday. Nearly half of the losses (46%) came in just five states: California, Texas, Florida, New York and North Carolina.

No definitive numbers yet: The Families USA analysis provides an estimate based on current data, and we won’t have official numbers until next year, when the federal government publishes its own analysis of insurance coverage for 2020. Other groups have provided estimates, as well. The Kaiser Family Foundation says that about 27 million people have lost health insurance coverage, a considerably larger number that includes family members of the formerly insured. And the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a study that estimates that about 10.1 million people will lose employer-provided coverage by the end of the year due to the coronavirus.

More than one in seven now lack insurance: About 16% of Americans are now uninsured, Families USA estimates, and many of the states experiencing spikes in the coronavirus have higher levels of uninsured residents. In Texas, 29% of adults under the age of 65 are uninsured, while in Florida the number is 25%.

Why it matters: The loss of health insurance is by definition bad news, but it’s even more so in the middle of a national health crisis. "This is particularly problematic during a pandemic involving a highly infectious, deadly disease, especially in states that are allowing residents to be in closer personal contact by attempting to reopen their economies – often the same states that are now experiencing significant spikes in COVID-19 infection rates," the group said.

Top Candidate to Lead Coronavirus Oversight Panel Withdraws: Report

Nearly four months after Congress created a five-member commission to oversee implementation of a $500 billion coronavirus relief fund, the panel remains without a chairperson. Retired Gen. Joseph Dunford, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has withdrawn from consideration for the position, Politico reports. The CARES Act passed in March required House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to agree on a chair. Dunford had been the leading candidate.

Chart of the Day: Trump’s Massive Farm Bailouts

Direct aid to farmers has jumped under President Trump, from $11.5 billion in 2017 to an all-time high of $32 billion and counting this year, as the administration seeks to ease the pain of its tariff wars and the coronavirus pandemic. "But as agriculture grows more reliant on unprecedented taxpayer support, farm policy experts and watchdog groups warn the subsidies are growing too big and too fast, with no strings attached and little oversight from Congress — and that Washington could have a difficult time shutting off the spigot," Politico agriculture reporter Ryan McCrimmon writes.

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