COVID & Unemployment

Republicans weigh options for pandemic unemployment wage replacement

Jasmine Garsd Jul 24, 2020
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Senate Republicans have delayed introducing a COVID-19 relief bill. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

Republicans weigh options for pandemic unemployment wage replacement

Jasmine Garsd Jul 24, 2020
Heard on:
Senate Republicans have delayed introducing a COVID-19 relief bill. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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Republicans are still trying to come up with a plan to replace the pandemic unemployment benefits, which millions of Americans have been receiving. That $600 dollar a week benefit expires at the end of this month.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said early Thursday that Republicans were talking about capping wage replacement at 70% of a worker’s prior pay. It’s not clear this will be the exact plan Republicans settle on, but what might it mean?

One of the arguments the Republicans have made is that $600 dollars a week is more than some people were earning, so they don’t have an incentive to go back to work.

For someone who used to earn minimum wage, 70% of their prior salary could be just a couple hundred dollars a week.

And, in the end, it’s too complicated for each state to figure out what 70% of everyone’s past wages would be, said economist Gary Burtless from the Brookings Institution.

“It is crazy to have waited this long,” Burtless said. “They should be planning on having something like six to eight weeks, at least, before states are going to be able to implement that in a uniform way.”

Instead, some expect Republicans to end up proposing a flat rate.

“I think the way they’re probably going to do this is just give everyone roughly $200 per week, flat, regardless of who they are,” said Ernie Tedeschi, an economist with Evercore.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the current benefits expiring.

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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