VOTE ON INFRASTRUCTURE BILL EXPECTED THIS WEEK
House Democrats plan to vote on their comprehensive infrastructure legislation, the Moving Forward Act, before the July 4th recess - potentially as soon as Tuesday, June 30. The legislation aims to invest $1.5 trillion in infrastructure to repair and upgrade highways and bridges, reduce traffic congestion, promote climate change resilience infrastructure, and includes the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act - a $130 billion effort to upgrade the nation’s poorest public schools.
Fourth Coronavirus Relief Bill
On Wednesday, June 24, Senate Republicans met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to start serious discussions on the fourth and final coronavirus relief package. Mnuchin said they would like the fourth package to be much more targeted, and more focused on jobs and reemployment. One idea being considered, which President Trump has supported, is another round of stimulus checks. House Democrats included more direct payments to households in their $3 trillion bill passed in May.
Also discussed was another round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a small-business lending program, as well as a payroll tax holiday for essential workers and federal funding for schools. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (TN) is pushing for federal assistance to colleges to help students return to classes in the fall.
There seems to be division among Senate Republicans on the benefit of a second round of checks. Secretary Mnuchin told senators that the Administration’s goal is to get another coronavirus relief bill passed by the end of July.
On Friday, June 26, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) to overhaul requirements federal agencies use when evaluating job candidates; and it promotes prioritizing skills-based hiring within the federal government. The order requires agencies to increase the use of skill assessments and interviews with subject matter experts to determine an applicant’s qualifications, opposed to just looking at educational achievements. Administration officials said the purpose of the order is to create a broader pool of candidates and a more equitable hiring process. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will work with federal agencies to implement the order, but the majority of the work will fall on individual agencies. With certain exceptions, existing federal statute prohibits OPM and other agencies from prescribing a minimum educational achievement for federal positions, with certain exceptions for scientific, technical and specific jobs.
Click here to read the full Executive Order
Perkins On Monday, June 22, Congresswomen Katie Porter (CA), Susie Lee (NV), Elise Stefanik (NY), and Lori Trahan (MD) introduced the bipartisan COVID–19 Perkins Loan Relief Act. The legislation would expand the reach of the student borrower protections included in the CARES Act and allow the nearly 2 million borrowers with Perkins loans to forgo making payments on those loans until October.
Click here to read a press release on the bill.
House Education and Labor Committee Jamaal Bowman, a New York middle school principal who is projected to defeat 16-term Representative Eliot Engel, is looking to serve on the House Education and Labor Committee and plans to bring his schoolhouse skills and concerns over urban issues to the Hill. He has expressed his eagerness to “get to DC and cause problems for those maintaining the status quo.” Engel’s apparent defeat also sets off a scramble for the Foreign Affairs Committee chairmanship.
International Monetary Fund On Wednesday, June 24, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast that the U.S. economy would shrink by 8 percent this year, contributing to a 4.9 percent contraction in the global economy. By comparison, the economy shrank by 2.5 percent in 2009, during the height of the Great Recession. The IMF forecast clashes with President Trump and the Administration's optimistic viewpoint that there would be a big rebound in the third quarter after an expected very bad second quarter GDP reading. Earlier this month the Federal Reserve projected the economy would contract by 6.5 percent in 2020. Both estimates could worsen if there is a second wave of the virus. According to the IMF, the U.S. could see rapid growth as the recovery gains steam in 2021 but warned the pandemic is not the only threat to growth - escalating tension between the U.S. and China also poses challenges to the global economy.
Click here to read the full report.
Minimum Wage On July 1, the hourly minimum wage will rise in some states and cities. Oregon has phased in its wage increases by area zones with the hourly wages at the lowest end going up 50 cents to $11.50 and at the highest end 75 cents to $13.25. In Minneapolis the hourly minimum will be raised to $11.75 at small businesses and $13.25 at large businesses. In Washington, D.C. the minimum wage will go up from $14 to $15. In Nevada the minimum wage will increase to $8 per hour for employees with qualified health benefits and $9 per hour for those without benefits. In Illinois it will rise to $10 in the state and from $13 to $14 in the city of Chicago.
Initial Jobless Claims
In the week ending June 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 1,480,000, a decrease of 60,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 32,000 from 1,508,000 to 1,540,000. The 4-week moving average was 1,620,750, a decrease of 160,750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 8,000 from 1,773,500 to 1,781,500. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 13.4 percent for the week ending June 13, a decrease of 0.5 percentage point from the previous week's revised rate.
Click here to read the full report.
Click here to read the entire June 29 weekly legislative update.