Where does Congress stand on another COVID-19 relief package?
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Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall-Genzer is following this news. The following is an edited transcript of her conversation with Marketplace’s Sabri Ben-Achour.
Sabri Ben-Achour: What’s on the table here?
Nancy Marshall-Genzer: The Senate bill will probably have a smaller price tag, probably around $1 trillion. Senate Republicans are also expected to insist on some liability protections for businesses to protect them from lawsuits if workers or customers get COVID-19 and blame the business owner. President Trump also says he wants the legislation to include a payroll tax cut.
Ben-Achour: And what about the extra $600 a week in unemployment payments workers are now getting?
Marshall-Genzer: That’s a big stumbling block. It’s scheduled to expire at the end of this month. Democrats want it to continue, maybe for the next six months. But Republican leaders say some people are making more money from unemployment than when they were working. They see the $600 as a disincentive to return to work. Democrats say there aren’t enough jobs for all of the unemployed workers right now, and if the extra money were cut, it would cause great financial hardship.
Ben-Achour: Are there any compromises on the horizon there?
Marshall-Genzer: Possibly. Republicans might be willing to continue with a smaller unemployment subsidy. There’s also talk about giving people who return to work a bonus. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said any new subsidy would be no more than 100% of a person’s lost wages.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?
On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.
What kind of help can small businesses get right now?
A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.
What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?
New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.
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