Covid bill revives return to work argument


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$600 a week

When Congress issued a $600-a-week boost to unemployment benefits in the spring, as part of the CARES Act, the backlash was swift and fierce.

The goal of the infusion, coupled with typical state benefits, was to fully replace lost wages for the average worker — almost $1,000 a week. (Typical state benefits generally replace half of lost wages.)

Tug of war re-emerges

The supplement lapsed in July. Democrats wanted to extend it but Republicans were opposed.

This time around, lawmakers seem to be less vocal about their opposition, but the relief legislation shows it’s still on their mind, according to labor experts.

“It’s left over from the $600 concern,” according to Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank. “[The legislation] is trying to make all states be more vocal on this issue.”

A $300 cash infusion may have a larger disincentive effect now, given labor-market improvements from the height of the crisis, Marinescu said. But it’s not a significant concern, she said, since there’s still a dearth of jobs and the economy hasn’t rebounded to the extent it would pose a threat.

“It’s just not all that bad, and we need the stimulus,” she said.

Plus, fewer workers would surpass full wage replacement with a $300 boost, which is half the level of the CARES Act subsidy and the same amount as a Lost Wages Assistance program created by President Donald Trump over the summer.

The typical person would replace about 85% of their pre-layoff paycheck with an extra $300, according to an analysis by Ernie Tedeschi, an economist at Evercore and a former Treasury Department official.

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