COVID & Unemployment

Where does Congress stand on another COVID-19 relief package?

Sabri Ben-Achour, Nancy Marshall-Genzer, and Alex Schroeder Jul 20, 2020
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Senate Republicans are expected to roll out another coronavirus relief package proposal this week. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

Where does Congress stand on another COVID-19 relief package?

Sabri Ben-Achour, Nancy Marshall-Genzer, and Alex Schroeder Jul 20, 2020
Heard on:
Senate Republicans are expected to roll out another coronavirus relief package proposal this week. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
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Senate Republicans are expected to roll out another COVID-19 relief package proposal this week. The House has already passed a new $3 trillion relief bill.

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

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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