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Advocacy & Policy Update - June 1, 2020



Fourth Stimulus Package

According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), the chamber will consider a ‘fourth and final’ relief bill ‘in about a month.’ A major point of debate in the fourth stimulus bill will be how to help the 40 million individuals out of work. McConnell said the legislation could include funding for small businesses and health care, but said he would not support extending the measure providing an additional $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits. McConnell believes the extra unemployment benefit provides a disincentive to return to work. Democrats, however, feel Congress must extend benefits for the millions of Americans struggling to pay bills. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) has suggested tying unemployment benefits to the condition of the economy.  McConnell also wants to end enhanced unemployment benefits, something Democrats have been adamant that Congress can’t cut off as a necessary economic lifeline.

Both Democrats and Republicans have introduced legislation aimed at reviving the economy and boosting employment with “return to work” proposals. One from Senator Josh Hawley (MO) pushes to have the federal government subsidize business’ payrolls during the pandemic and Senator Rob Portman (OH) has a proposal that would provide workers with an additional $450 a week bonus on top of their current wages, as incentive to go back to work. Senator Mark Warner (VA) has a proposal supported by moderates and liberals in the Democratic caucus to dramatically expand the employee retention tax credit. Warner said in an interview there could be "some collaboration" between his proposal and Portman's, in a sign that some consensus could be found when bipartisan talks begin in earnest.

The Department of Labor is encouraging state unemployment agencies to ask employers whether unemployment insurance benefit recipients refuse to return to work. Under federal rules, once workers accept unemployment benefits, they must take any suitable job offer or will become ineligible, although states have some flexibility in implementing work search requirements.

House Schedule

The House is making several big changes in its schedule in the era of coronavirus.  Normally, the House splits its schedule between district work periods and D.C. work periods. Today, in a "Dear Colleague" letter, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) is announcing that there will now be a third category: committee work periods, during which major committees will be in D.C. for markups and hearings without votes on the House floor.  This would give major committees uninterrupted time to conduct their business with fewer people in the Capitol complex. 

According to the letter: The House will be in session "at some point in June, once the Senate does act, for further Floor action" on responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Hoyer said lawmakers will get at least 72 hours' notice before any floor action.  The House will hold committee work from July 6-17, followed by votes July 20-31. This will, in theory, help preserve the August recess.   

Click here to read the letter.

Click here to access the schedule.

Child Care is Essential Act

On Wednesday, May 27, House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (CT), House Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (VA) and Senate HELP ranking member Patty Murray (WA) introduced the Child Care is Essential Act, which would create a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund within the existing Child Care and Development Block Grant program. The new fund would provide grant funding to child care providers to support their operating expenses. It would also provide tuition and co-payment relief for working families. The bill would prioritize providers that work with underserved populations and ensure that the grants are awarded equitably across child care settings. The legislation is not likely to pass as a standalone bill, but the Senate still doesn’t have a timeline for taking up another round of federal relief.

Click here to learn more about the legislation.

Initial Jobless Claims

On Thursday, May 28, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the unemployment insurance weekly claims. In the week ending May 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 2,123,000, a decrease of 323,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 8,000 from 2,438,000 to 2,446,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,608,000, a decrease of 436,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 2,000 from 3,042,000 to 3,044,000.  The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 14.5 percent for the week ending May 16, a decrease of 2.6 percentage points from the previous week's revised rate. The previous week's rate was revised down by 0.1 from 17.2 to 17.1 percent.

While the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits has slowly declined over the past several weeks, the unemployment rate for May is still expected to hit about 20 percent. And jobs lost amid the pandemic may not be coming back. One estimate forecasts that 42 percent, of all job losses through April 25 due to Covid-19 will become permanent. 

Click here to read the full report.

Click here to read the June 1 weekly legislative update.

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