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European leaders strike deal on COVID-19 recovery fund
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After a marathon four days of at times acrimonious negotiation, European leaders in the early morning hours Tuesday reached a deal on an economic rescue package for EU nations battered by the pandemic.
The BBC’s Victoria Craig spoke with Marketplace’s Sabri Ben-Achour, and the following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Sabri Ben-Achour: So what did these 27 leaders agree to?
Victoria Craig: Well, they’ve officially signed off on a plan to distribute $850 billion to member countries to help them recover from the impact of shutdowns, loss of tourism and loss of local spending during this coronavirus crisis. And they’ll raise this money through the first-ever collective bond issuance program. Usually the EU prefers member states to raise money individually.
Ben-Achour: One of the big sticking points was whether to loan money to struggling countries or just give those countries money. Why was that such a big deal?
Craig: Well, southern nations like Italy and Spain, which have been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, had advocated to get a bigger portion of the overall funding to be distributed through grants. That would have meant that they wouldn’t have to take on extra debt after they’ve already kind of slowly recovered from the eurozone debt crisis from several years ago. The so- called “frugal four” group of nations in the north — those are the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark with support from Finland — they wanted more control in how the money is distributed. In the end, leaders agreed to allocate more money in grants than in loans, but the total amount of money that will be distributed in grants is more than $100 billion less than was originally floated back in May. So it was sort of a win-win situation for everyone.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?
It’s been weeks since President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum that was supposed to get the federal government back into the business of topping up unemployment benefits, to $400 a week. Few states, however, are currently paying even part of the benefit that the president promised. And, it looks like, in most states, the maximum additional benefit unemployment recipients will be able to get is $300.
What’s the latest on evictions?
For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.
Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?
Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.
You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.