Republicans propose funding cuts to OSHA during pandemic
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The fate of a new coronavirus relief package is still uncertain and lawmakers face a Dec. 11 deadline to come up with funding to keep the federal government open. On Tuesday, Senate Republicans unveiled a flurry of spending bills, and one cuts $11 million out of the worker safety program, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, during the pandemic.
The role of OSHA has never been so important, said Debbie Berkowitz with the National Employment Law Project.
“We know that workplace exposures are a significant driver of this pandemic,” Berkowitz said.
She said that under the Trump administration though, the agency has pulled back and is doing little enforcement. OSHA’s website says it has received more than 10,000 COVID-related complaints. The agency has issued fewer than 200 citations since the pandemic began.
“So if OSHA doesn’t act, if OSHA doesn’t inspect, there is nothing,” Berkowitz said. “Workers do not have the right to sue an employer under the OSHA law.”
She expects under the leadership of President-elect Joe Biden the agency will become more aggressive. But that would take more resources, said James Brudney, an employment law professor at Fordham University.
“A more substantial and visible enforcement presence would be very helpful,” Brudney said.
OSHA says with its state partners it has 2,100 inspectors responsible for the safety of 130 million workers.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
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.
How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?
It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.
How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?
Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.
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