250,000 Dead. Where Are Trump, Pelosi and McConnell?

250,000 Dead. Where Are Trump, Pelosi and McConnell?

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Plus, 12 millon workers face a benefits cliff
Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Trump White House Says Stimulus Bill Up to Congress

President Trump had no public events scheduled for Wednesday. It was the same on Tuesday, when The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted that the president’s public calendar has been empty for 10 of the 14 days since Election Day — make it 11 of 15 now — though Trump had held six events, played four rounds of golf and tweeted or retweeted some 400 times over that time while fuming over his election loss. Trump also canceled plans to travel to his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida for Thanksgiving.

"It feels like bunker mentality," one White House official told CNN.

Politico asked, “Is Trump done being president?”

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic rages on, with new U.S. cases up 29% over the past week, total confirmed cases now topping 11.4 million and 1,707 new Covid-19 deaths reported just on Tuesday. Total U.S coronavirus-related deaths just surpassed 250,000.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told “Fox & Friends” Wednesday that Trump is “hard at work on Covid, among other issues” and that the country would hear from him “at the right moment.”

That lack of engagement apparently extends to coronavirus relief legislation. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters Wednesday that any additional discussions on a stimulus package would be up to Congress. “Obviously those discussions -- if they happen -- will be dictated by the House and the Senate,” Meadows said, according to Bloomberg News. “We haven’t seen a real willingness by our House colleagues to look at that.”

Meadows, who met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Wednesday, said that getting a stimulus deal “has been a priority for the president,” but Bloomberg’s Erik Wasson and Laura Litvan note that the chief of staff’s remarks “are further evidence that the White House is pulling back from the discussions after Trump’s loss to President-elect Joe Biden.”

Congress and the White House also have to approve new spending legislation to prevent a partial government shutdown after December 11, when current federal funding expires. Meadows told reporters that it’s a “high priority” to keep the government funded, but said he “can’t guarantee” a deal will be reached.

McConnell again slams Democratic stimulus plan:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote to McConnell on Tuesday, asking him to “come to the table” to negotiate coronavirus relief legislation.

The GOP leader reportedly has not responded to the letter, but he reiterated this week that he remains open to a “targeted” bill of about $500 billion and he again criticized the Democrat’s much larger bill. “Huge tax cuts for rich people in blue states, but no second round of the Paycheck Protection Program? Those are their priorities?” McConnell said Tuesday. He described Democrats’ insistence on additional aid for state and local governments as a “fixation on a massive slush fund … unlinked from COVID need.”

He followed up in additional remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday: “The problem is that their proposal is a multi-trillion dollar laughingstock that never had a chance of becoming law.”

The bottom line:
Lawmakers are reportedly optimistic about passing funding legislation. “We are on a good path to do that,” Pelosi told reporters Wednesday. But a stimulus deal, much like the president, remains out of sight.

Quote of the Day

“I know now we have this big debate. Is it $2.2 trillion, $1.5 trillion? You gotta be kidding me. I mean just split the baby and move on. This is childish behavior on the part of our politicians.”

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, referring Wednesday to the differences between Democrats and Republicans in negotiations in Washington over the coronavirus relief bill.

12 Million Americans Could Fall Off the ‘Jobless Benefits Cliff’: Report

About 12 million Americans will lose federal unemployment benefits at the end of the year if Congress fails to pass new legislation, according to a new report from the liberal-leaning Century Foundation that examines the toll that failure could take on both households and the broader economy.

The “jobless benefit cliff” will occur on December 26, when federal funding for two of the main emergency unemployment programs created by the Cares Act — Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation — runs out. Here’s how researchers Andrew Stettner and Elizabeth Pancotti break down the numbers:

About 7.3 million unemployed people will lose their Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits on December 26. PUA provides aid to self-employed and gig workers, who are usually unable to participate in state benefit systems. Another 945,000 people will exhaust their PUA benefits before the December expiration date.

About 4.6 million people will lose their Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits on December 26. PEUC provides extended benefits for unemployed workers who have hit the time limit in their state-level programs. Another 3.5 million people will have run out of PEUC benefits before December 26.

All told, the 12 million people who will lose their federal unemployment benefits on the day after Christmas account for more than half of the 21.1 million currently receiving any type of jobless assistance. About 3 million of the workers losing federal aid will be able to access state-level unemployment programs, but the majority will be left with no benefits past the expiration date.

Unlike during previous recessions, the unemployment programs created by Congress in the Cares Act back in March came with “hard” cutoff dates, Stettner and Pancotti say, which means payments will be ended immediately, regardless of how many weeks of eligibility an aid recipient may have left. “Previous laws, such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, had a soft cutoff, which allowed individuals already receiving benefits to continue doing so until their full term was exhausted, but stopped any additional workers from qualifying,” the researchers write. “The important difference here is that a soft cutoff creates a gentle downward slope for workers and the economy, while a hard cutoff creates a cliff.”

Effects on households: The researchers reviewed the literature on how long-term unemployment affects individuals and households, and the results are not pretty. Those who are jobless for more than 26 weeks and lose unemployment aid suffer in virtually every aspect of their lives, from their ability to maintain housing and pay bills to the condition of their mental and physical health, and the negative effects are long-lasting. “For this reason,” Stettner and Pancotti write, “Congress has historically provided federal support for extended benefits when large numbers of Americans are facing long-term unemployment and keeps these benefits in place until well into a cycle of recovery.”

Effects on the economy: Most economists see aid to the unemployed as an important means of maintaining demand in the economy during a recession, supporting jobs by pumping dollars into local businesses. “Unemployment insurance benefits have been proven over and over again to be one of the best dollar-for-dollar stimulus programs,” the researchers say. But the hard cutoff of benefits at the end of December for millions of workers will create more drag in the middle of an economic recovery that is already slowing. Stettner and Pancotti estimate that the loss of federal unemployment assistance will reduce spending in the economy by about $2.5 billion per week, a number that will grow as more workers exhaust their state benefits in early 2021.

In previous recessions, lawmakers waited longer to end emergency unemployment aid programs, giving the jobless more time — often years — to get back on their feet. If Congress allows it to occur, the December 26 cutoff will pull the plug in less than 12 months, even as the primary cause of the crisis — a raging pandemic — gathers strength.

“Nobody is talking about this,” Stettner told The Washington Post. “We’re just careening into this huge cliff and it’s like it’s not even happening. People are just totally, completely ignoring the situation at a time when things are getting worse before they’re going to get better in terms of public health.”

Number of the Day: 3 Million

More than 3 million people in the U.S. are currently contagious with Covid-19, according to an analysis by Columbia University epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman. The number is about twice that once people who have caught the virus but are not yet contagious are taken into account. “It’s bad; it’s really, really bad,” Shaman told The Washington Post. “We’re running into Thanksgiving now and that’s only going to make it worse. We’re going to go through a lot of people being infected between now and the end of the year, unfortunately.”

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