Congress and White House Fail to Extend Enhanced Unemployment Benefits

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer today and left the meeting with no deal in sight. According to both sides, there is bipartisan agreement on many issues but still disagreements on key parts of extending the much needed Coronavirus Relief package.

“I think there’s a lot of areas of compromise. I think if we can reach an agreement on state and local and unemployment, we will reach an overall deal. And if we can’t, we can’t…” – Steve Mnuchin

After meeting with the Dems, Mnuchin and Meadows met with the press and announced they will recommend President Trump use executive orders to help address assistance for renters, student loans and unemployment insurance. 

“We’re going to take executive orders, to try to alleviate some of the pain that people are experiencing,” – Mark Meadows

Now, what kind of executive orders can Trump enact? I have no idea, so it will be interesting to see what he comes up with.

The problem with ALL of this, is that it should have never reached this point where enhanced UI ($600) and now PPP have expired.

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi passed the Heroes ACT ($3 Trillion dollars) back in May, and includes the following:

  • Stimulus Check – Individuals earning up to $75,000 would get a one-time $1,200 check. Couples earning up to $150,000 would be eligible for $2,400
  • Hazard Pay – $200 billion for hazard pay
    • Given to a wide variety of “essential” workers, including doctors, nurses and other frontline medical personnel, police officers, firefighters, social workers, grocery clerks, postal workers, and childcare and cafeteria workers
    • A $13-an-hour raise paid until workers receive a total of $10,000 if their regular pay is less than $200,000 per year. Or up to $5,000 total if they make more than $200,000 a year
    • Paid for 60 days after the pandemic ends if the $10,000 or $5,000 totals aren’t reached first
    • Distributed by employers, who will apply to the government for hazard pay, add it to their workers’ paychecks, deduct payroll taxes from all hazard payments
  • Unemployment Benefits – The HEROES Act would extend the benefits from the CARES Act, including the extra $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit, through January 31, 2021. If you’re already receiving Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), your payments could be extended to March 31, 2021
  • Student Loan Forgiveness – The CARES Act suspended interest and payments for most people with federal student loans through September 30, 2020. Interest will not accrue during that period. The HEROES Act extends that break for another, year through September 30, 2021, and expands it to all federal student loans, including Federal Perkins Loans and some other loans
  • Rental Aid – provides approximately $100 billion for rental assistance. An existing nationwide grant rental assistance program would verify a tenant’s inability to pay rent and give vouchers to cover the cost of rent and utilities. It would also extend the ban on evictions for nonpayment for a year following its enactment date
  • Mortgage Relief – The bill also provides $75 billion for a homeowner assistance fund intended to prevent mortgage defaults and property foreclosures

Realistically speaking there is no way Republicans will agree with all of the above (Republicans want to reduce the UI from $600 to $200 (may go as high as $400)), but there is plenty of room for compromise. Unfortunately Senate Republicans and the White House waited until the Monday before the Employment Benefits expired to start negotiations. And now there is the pressure to get something done to help struggling families.

One compromise that could work was floated by a bipartisan group of economist who worked with the Obama and Bush Administrations. They proposed that Congress extend the enhanced unemployment insurance at $400 a week, and then tie the bonus payment to the unemployment rate in each state. As the unemployment rate falls, the bonus would decline.

As of right now, there are no new negotiations scheduled for this weekend. Hopefully both sides will come back Monday ready to make some kind of deal.

As always…

there is something to be said, “It’s On Broadway” to step up and say it!!

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