Congressional Leaders Begin Funding Negotiations
On Thursday, January 13, Congressional leaders began cross-party talks on a possible $1.4 trillion deal that would keep the federal government open through the fall. There are less than 5 weeks left until the February 18 shutdown deadline and leaders still seem to be struggling to move past the funding standstill that forced the October and December stopgap measures. Republican leaders want Democrats to agree upfront to maintain dozens of controversial policy riders – something Democrats need to work-through in order to start negotiations on an expansive spending agreement. The other alternative would be to extend lower Trump-era funding levels signed into law at the end of 2020 – something Democrats do not want to do. Top lawmakers have still failed to set totals for military and non-defense spending.
Supreme Court Vaccine Mandate Ruling
On Thursday, January 13, The United States Supreme Court ruled to block President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing requirements aimed at large businesses, but still allowed a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers to go into effect. The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandate previously required that businesses with 100 or more employees ensure that each worker is fully vaccinated or tests for COVID-19 on at least a weekly basis and, now, many businesses are left to decide on their own whether to issue any COVID-19 vaccine or testing requirements for their employees. The Supreme Court only blocked the federal government requiring vaccine and testing mandates - there is nothing that prohibits businesses from developing their own mandates.
As of now, the healthcare industry is still under the original vaccine requirements through a mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Healthcare workers in hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs — estimated to be more than 10.3 million U.S. workers — will have until March 15 to be fully vaccinated in the 24 states where the mandate was reinstated by the Supreme Court. Twenty-five other states and the District of Columbia continue to face the February 28 deadline that was already in place, as the mandate had not been blocked in those states before the Supreme Court decision last week. Only in Texas is the mandate still blocked, which brought its own lawsuit challenging the mandate separate from the cases that were before the Supreme Court, and a preliminary injunction still stands.
Click here to read President Biden’s statement on the Supreme Court’s decision.
Click here to read Secretary Walsh’s statement on the decision.
Initial Jobless Claims
In the week ending January 8, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 230,000, an increase of 23,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 207,000. The 4-week moving average was 210,750, an increase of 6,250 from the previous week's unrevised average of 204,500. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.1 percent for the week ending January 1, a decrease of 0.2 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate.
Click here to access the full report.