What Senate Republicans are proposing for the COVID-19 relief bill
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Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their $1 trillion coronavirus relief bill Thursday. Congress still hasn’t decided whether to extend the extra $600 a week in supplemental unemployment benefit, which expires at the end of this month.
Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall-Genzer is tracking this news. The following is an edited transcript of her conversation with Marketplace’s Sabri Ben-Achour.
Sabri Ben-Achour: Nancy, are Republicans in favor of extending the extra unemployment?
Nancy Marshall-Genzer: They’ve divided over this. They could offer a temporary extension of the $600 payment. Or they might give unemployed workers a lower weekly supplement — maybe a couple hundred dollars a week.
Ben-Achour: And when do those $600 payments end?
Marshall-Genzer: In a matter of days. Officially they expire on July 31, which is a Friday. Most states pay unemployment for the week ending on a Saturday, not Friday. That means, for most unemployed workers, this is the last week they’ll get the extra $600.
Ben-Achour: What’s keeping Congress from just extending the extra $600 a week?
Marshall-Genzer: Some Republicans say the $600 payment is too high and discourages people from looking for a job because they earn more on unemployment than they did when they were working. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday on CNBC that unemployment shouldn’t be more than 100% of a worker’s salary:
“But we went to make sure that the people that are out there that can’t find jobs do get a reasonable wage replacement. So it will be based on approximately 70% wage replacement.”
Mnuchin also said that there won’t be a payroll tax credit in the Republican relief bill. That’s something President Trump was pushing for.
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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