Relief Bill Negotiations Gaining Steam

Relief Bill Negotiations Gaining Steam

( – As a second wave of layoffs hit America, workers are stuck in the middle between Democrats and Republicans who can’t agree on a relief bill. Compounding the issue is that millions of Americans are losing their jobs for a second time. Businesses are struggling to attract customers, and some governors recently ordered modified shutdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Late last week and early this week, neither Democrats nor Republicans appeared enthusiastic that a fifth relief bill would be agreed to anytime soon. On Tuesday evening, August 4, that sentiment began changing. Both parties now say they hope to have a deal done by the end of this week.

Economy Taking a Battering

With COVID-19 continuing to spread, businesses are struggling. In some states, governors have ordered bars and entertainment venues closed, and restaurants to reduce capacity to as little as 25%. In the first half of 2020, over 3,600 companies filed for bankruptcy or liquidation, 600 in June alone. The restaurant industry has been hit exceptionally hard thanks to social distancing and modified closures that limit capacity. Thousands of restaurants may not make it through the end of the year.

Unfortunately, what went around is coming around again.

Last week, 31% of employees who were recalled to work when state quarantines were lifted are now laid off a second time. Employers told another 26% they could be let go again. Additionally, economists say that it appears rehiring has also slowed down as businesses scale back or close permanently.

The latest unemployment estimates say 17 million Americans are out of a job, and more could be on the way as the reopening hasn’t been as strong as economists had hoped. A new ADP report released on Wednesday morning said private employers had hired for 167,000 jobs in July; that was well below the 1.5 million forecasted.

Relief Negotiations Struggle but an Agreement Could Be Soon

In the wake of the economic news, the expiration of the $600 federal unemployment benefit, and the potential for mass rental evictions and foreclosures, politicians on both sides of the aisle are feeling some heat. However, there remains much disagreement about what to do.

On Tuesday evening, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said negotiations with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were progressing. He said both sides are making some concessions, but were still far apart on some crucial issues.

Four issues that neither side is compromising on up to this point are:

  1. The $600 per week unemployment benefit that Republicans say is too high and provides more money for some people than they earn working. Democrats say Americans are suffering at no fault of their own and need the help.
  2. Relief for states, though Republicans say it is a bailout for years or decades of mismanagement by high taxed liberal states.
  3. A moratorium on rental evictions.
  4. Repealing the $10,000 limit on state and local deductions passed in the 2017 tax bill.

The areas both parties agree upon are:

  1. A $1,200 direct payment to Americans.
  2. Extending funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he would not have total consensus from Republicans in the senate, and divisions exist about what to do. Therefore, he knows strong Democratic support will be needed in the senate to pass a bill. The majority leader said he was relying on the White House to hammer out the details with Democrats.

Stay tuned as this situation evolves.

By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor

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