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COVID-19

CDC set to testify on Capitol Hill on its budget, as it responds to COVID-19

Kimberly Adams Mar 10, 2020
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President Donald Trump and his Coronavirus Task Force at a press briefing on Feb. 29, 2020. Alex Wong/Getty Images
COVID-19

CDC set to testify on Capitol Hill on its budget, as it responds to COVID-19

Kimberly Adams Mar 10, 2020
President Donald Trump and his Coronavirus Task Force at a press briefing on Feb. 29, 2020. Alex Wong/Getty Images
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Leaders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are set to testify on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning. The hearing itself is officially about the president’s 2021 budget request for the agency. But in the month or so since President Donald Trump sent that budget to Congress, the COVID-19 outbreak has completely changed the public health landscape.

The budget proposal for the CDC cut funding to the agency by about 16%. Now with an $8 billion funding package that was just signed into law, Jay Shambaugh at the Brookings Institution says “you’re seeing continued activity to try to make sure anything that needs to be funded from a public health standpoint is funded.”

Right now, thanks to low interest rates, the government can borrow money cheaply, according to Desmond Lachman at the American Enterprise Institute. 

“It takes time to spend that kind of money efficiently,” Lachman said. “So I wouldn’t expect an increase in the very near future.”

Shambaugh said the money is good in the short term, but the conversation is different now.

“But now there’s a much broader conversation in Congress about an appropriate kind of fiscal response that stretches beyond the immediate funding the public health agencies as well,” he said.

Such “responses” include tax cuts or paid sick leave that may address other consequences of the outbreak.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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