DETAILS OF NEXT COVID-19 RELIEF PACKAGE EMERGE; $350 BILLION FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
COVID-19 Relief Package
As inauguration day approaches, Senate Democrats are preparing to work with President-Elect Biden to quickly pass a major, multi-trillion dollar COVID-19 relief package as the economy continues to falter. While details of the package are still being discussed and the legislative text of the bill has not yet been released, President-Elect Biden has called for $350 billion in direct, flexible funding to support state and local governments. This comes as welcome news for cities, which have been facing significant budget challenges and layoffs throughout the pandemic without any direct federal aid to date. Democrats are also hoping to secure another round of $1,400 direct payments to Americans, an extension of rent forbearance and unemployment insurance, and $30 billion in rent and utility assistance.
Additionally, the package is expected to include hundreds of billions of dollars to support a more efficient rollout of vaccines nationwide and to support the safe reopening of schools, along with financial assistance for struggling small businesses and the ailing transportation sector.
With Republican support for a stimulus package of this size unlikely, Democrats plan to use a budget process known as reconciliation to ensure passage of the bill, which allows a simple majority of lawmakers in the Senate to approve funding measures. Without the need for Republican support, the bill also may end up including significant funding for other Biden-Harris Administration priorities, including significant sums of money for infrastructure development, clean energy, and an expansion of Obamacare subsidies.
President-Elect Biden is also calling on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from the current $7.25 an hour. More details of the forthcoming proposal will be released later this week.
House Appropriations Committee
Rosa DeLauro, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, has selected Robin Juliano as the committee’s next Democratic staff director and clerk. Robin Juliano, formerly an aide to the Senate Appropriations Committee and policy advisor for the HELP Committee, will take the place of Shalanda Young, who has been nominated by Biden for the role of Deputy Director at the Office of Management and Budget.
Matt Washington, a long-time aide to the House Appropriations Committee who currently services as clerk of the Legislative Branch subcommittee, will also be promoted to the position of deputy staff director. Previously, he served as clerk of the Military Construction-Veteran Affairs subcommittee and staff director for the House Homeland Security subcommittee.
HELP Committee and Education Updates
Senator Patty Murray (WA), incoming chairwoman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, recently outlined several of her priority issues for the committee including reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) and addressing systemic racism in higher education. It is expected that Senator Murray, a strong proponent of early-childhood education, will also work to secure additional funding for childcare in the next relief package.
Meanwhile, Miguel Cardona, President-Elect Biden’s nominee for education secretary, may begin serving as acting head of the department on January 20th once Biden is sworn into office, prior to Senate confirmation.
Also on the education front, President-Elect Biden has announced that he will request Congress to immediately cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for all borrowers as many struggle to make their payments due to the impact of COVID-19.
Rapid Training Programs
On Tuesday, January 12, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue called on Congress to provide funding for rapid training programs to help connect job seekers with the skills they need to succeed in new sectors of the economy, noting that employers should design the programs and saying, “If we do this right and do it quickly, we will improve the living standard for millions of Americans.”
In the week ending January 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 965,000, an increase of 181,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 3,000 from 787,000 to 784,000. The 4-week moving average was 834,250, an increase of 18,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 2,750 from 818,750 to 816,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.7 percent for the week ending January 2, an increase of 0.2 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate
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