COVID-19

Republicans weigh options for pandemic unemployment wage replacement

Jasmine Garsd Jul 24, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Senate Republicans have delayed introducing a COVID-19 relief bill. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images
COVID-19

Republicans weigh options for pandemic unemployment wage replacement

Jasmine Garsd Jul 24, 2020
Senate Republicans have delayed introducing a COVID-19 relief bill. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

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

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The latest: President Donald Trump signed an executive action directing $400 extra a week in unemployment benefits. But will that aid actually reach people? It’s still unclear. Trump directed federal agencies to send $300 dollars in weekly aid, taken from the federal disaster relief fund, and called on states to provide an additional $100. But states’ budgets are stretched thin as it is.

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.

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