Senate negotiations continue Saturday on the next phase of coronavirus stimulus. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's unrealistic timeline and pro-corporation and anti-worker proposal is facing thus far united opposition from Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it's a "non-starter."
While Republicans are pushing a one-time, meager direct cash payment, Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer along with Sens. Ron Wyden and Gary Peters from the Finance Committee are negotiating for a longer-term solution using the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program already in place in the states. Currently, according to information provided by Schumer staff, the state-determined benefits averages about 46% of previous income for 26 weeks. The Democrats are pushing for a 100% income benefit with a 13-week extension beyond that 26 weeks.
Press release from Wyden specifies: “The program will be particularly helpful for those without paid sick leave, and will cover self-employed workers and workers without sufficient work history to qualify for regular unemployment insurance.” So self-employed and gig workers covered, too.
Many states also impose a waiting period of a week before laid-off workers can apply for benefits, and the Democrats' proposal has incentives for states to waive that to get money to people immediately. They also provide federal funding for work sharing programs that allow employers to reduce hours for multiple employees rather than laying off employees. Their proposal also sets up a trigger system that would automatically extend UI compensation as the unemployment rate rises, so Congress wouldn't have to repeatedly pass legislation extending it, as they did during the 2008-2010 recession.
According to the fact sheet provided by staff, workers who would qualify for assistance under the program include:
- Individuals who are sick or who have been exposed to coronavirus
- Individuals who must care for someone who is sick with coronavirus
- Individuals who cannot reach their place of work because of a quarantine
- Individuals who need to self-quarantine to protect themselves from coronavirus
- Individuals who must care for a child because of a school closure
- Individuals who are working reduced hours due to coronavirus. (Individuals who have been laid off are covered by traditional unemployment assistance. While individuals who have had their hours cut by their employer generally qualify for traditional unemployment assistance, this proposal would ensure workers do not fall through the cracks if they are working reduced hours.)
Tax experts all along the political spectrum have trashed McConnell's tax rebate, cash payment scheme, which would do little to help many of the people in the first wave of job losses, such as retail and restaurant workers, who wouldn't even get the full $1,200 one-time payment McConnell proposes.