August 15, 2020

With Jobless Aid Set to Lapse, Lawmakers Fail to Agree on Extension

Faced with significant pressure to prevent the expiration of the unemployment insurance benefit, Republicans worked feverishly to coalesce around a stopgap bill that could extend it, though most proposals unveiled this week would slash the aid and present overwhelmed state systems with a difficult switch that experts say is likely to disadvantage lower-wage workers.

One such proposal, which Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Mike Braun of Indiana tried to push across the Senate floor on Thursday, would have continued the extra jobless aid payments through the end of the year, but slashed the payments to $200 a week from $600 or allow the benefit to replace two-thirds of a worker’s prior income.

Mr. Meadows said President Trump would support a flat, one-week extension of the $600 benefit in order to buy lawmakers time to negotiate a longer agreement. But Democrats rejected an attempt by Senator Martha McSally, Republican of Arizona, to win approval of such an extension, with Mr. Schumer dismissing the effort as “a stunt” on the Senate floor.

“This is disappointing and a political stunt and a game,” Ms. McSally, who is badly trailing her Democratic opponent in Arizona’s Senate race, shot back. “It’s the minority leader who is against this on his path to try to become the majority leader, and that’s unfortunate.”

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The Coronavirus Outbreak ›

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated July 27, 2020

  • Should I refinance my mortgage?

    • It could be a good idea, because mortgage rates have never been lower. Refinancing requests have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to get in line. But defaults are also up, so if you’re thinking about buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
  • What is school going to look like in September?

    • It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
  • Is the coronavirus airborne?

  • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

  • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

    • So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

Mr. Schumer, his flip phone ringing in his pocket, spent a portion of his day on the Senate floor, swatting last-ditch attempts by Republicans to push through short extensions of the jobless aid and to try to pin the blame on Democrats for blocking them. He responded with a futile and politically loaded tactic of his own: an attempt to win approval of the $3 trillion stimulus package House Democrats passed in May. Republicans blocked that as well, with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, deriding it as “a totally unserious proposal.”

“The House speaker moves the goal posts while the Democratic leader hides the football,” said Mr. McConnell, accusing Democrats of blocking discussions among rank-and-file lawmakers. “They won’t engage when the administration tries to discuss our comprehensive plan. They won’t engage when the administration floats a narrower proposal. They basically won’t engage, period.”

Comparing negotiations with Republicans to “trying to nail Jell-O to the wall,” Mr. Schumer noted that Mr. McConnell, whose conference remained divided over another relief package, was notably absent from the daily negotiations with administration officials in Ms. Pelosi’s Capitol Hill suite. The time crunch, he said, came because Republicans had “dithered for months” and still had yet to reach agreement on the $1 trillion proposal they had put forward on Monday.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/30/us/politics/senate-virus-aid.html

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