What to expect from Biden on propping up the COVID economy
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What might be President-Elect Joe Biden’s early moves to help households get through the economic turmoil of the pandemic?
Felicia Wong is a member of the Biden transition advisory board, but spoke with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio on Monday morning from her perspective as the president and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, a nonprofit, liberal-leaning think tank. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Emergency funding for state and local governments, small businesses and more
Felicia Wong: Right away this week, the Biden team is going to name a pandemic task force. And interestingly, that’ll be, of course, about public health. But it’ll also have a lot of elements for economic strengthening. The Biden team wants to make sure that we can produce masks and PPE domestically. There’s going to be a fund for state and local governments to prevent budget shortfalls, to help teachers, to help first responders, to keep those people employed even in an economic crisis. They’re talking about an emergency funding package for schools and small businesses so they can adapt to COVID. These are very immediate things that I think that task force will tackle right away.
Working with a Senate controlled by Republicans
David Brancaccio: But some of this has to be in cooperation — at least during the transition period — with the existing Senate run by Republicans. So can much really get done on spending stuff before the new Congress comes in?
Wong: Good question. I do think you’re going to see real efforts, very quickly, including before inauguration, on a kind of relief plan or a stimulus package. And I think that will include all of the things I just mentioned. It will also include stronger unemployment insurance. It’ll include an improved mechanism for helping small businesses, maybe through rent relief, maybe through more funding to keep workers on payroll. And I think it will also include funding for state governments and for city governments, which of course are under such crisis. That crisis, that economic crisis, is only going to get worse as the winter wears on.
Now, whether Republicans are going to come through and actually do this with Democrats is an important political question. But I think they are definitely incentivized to do that now that they know who is going to be in charge in Washington. And you’re going to see a lot of red state governors wanting that funding in addition, of course, to blue state governors.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins 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.
Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.
U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.
What do I need to know about tax season this year?
Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.
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