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Advocacy & Policy Update - August 24, 2020



Coronavirus Stimulus Bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has officially turned down several requests from her members to take up more economic recovery bills when the House returns this weekend. On Thursday, August 20, in a late night "Dear Colleague" letter, Pelosi said members' proposals - such as a package of economic stabilizers - could be taken up at a later date, but the House would not vote this weekend. Calls had been mounting all week for Democrats to take up more bills, with several dozen members having written a letter to Pelosi requesting action. Nearly two-dozen members of the Blue Dog Coalition plan to send a letter Friday urging party leaders to resume coronavirus talks immediately, outlining a slew of priorities. In yet another letter, swing-district members of both parties have issued a similar call to action to leaders of both parties. Meanwhile, top negotiators haven't met in person to discuss the next relief deal since August 7, and funding for state and local governments remains a significant stumbling block in negotiations.

(The Senate remains out of session until early September.)

Speaker Pelosi held a call Thursday evening with House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Assistant Leader Ben Ray Lujan, in which they discussed staying away from a stand-alone vote on unemployment insurance stabilization. Instead, they agreed to push for a more comprehensive deal.

On Tuesday, August 18, Senate Republicans began circulating text of a smaller coronavirus relief package that would revive extra unemployment benefits at half the original rate, protect businesses from lawsuits related to the virus, and provide funding for testing and schools. In order to reach a deal, the two parties need to bridge the gap on state and local funding as well as schools. Republicans feel $150-$250 billion for state and local government funding is satisfactory while Democrats are asking for almost $900 billion. The gap for school funding is also substantial, with Democrats seeking $400 billion and Republicans holding at $105 billion.

Click here to read the Democratic caucus letter.

Click here to read the bipartisan swing district letter.

Student Loans

On Monday, August 24, acting on President Trump’s August 8th memorandum, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos directed Federal Student Aid (FSA) to extend the student loan relief to borrowers initiated by the President and Secretary in March 2020 through December 31, 2020. All borrowers with federally held student loans will have their payments automatically suspended until 2021 without penalty. In addition, the interest rate on all federally held student loans will be set to 0% through the end of the calendar year. Borrowers will continue to have the option to make payments if they so choose and doing so allows borrowers to pay off their loans more quickly and at a lower cost. During this extended time frame, collections on defaulted, federally held loans are still halted, and any borrower with defaulted federally held loans whose employer continues to garnish their wages will receive a refund of those garnishments.

Click here to read the full press release.

Initial Jobless Claims

In the week ending August 15, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 1,106,000, an increase of 135,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 8,000 from 963,000 to 971,000. The 4-week moving average was 1,175,750, a decrease of 79,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 2,000 from 1,252,750 to 1,254,750. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 10.2 percent for the week ending August 8, a decrease of 0.4 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Click here to read the full report.

Click hereto read the entire August 24 weekly legislative update.

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