Bill Cassidy on Covid negotiations

Bill Cassidy on Covid negotiations

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy believes two of his favored provisions – more aid to state and local governments and another round of stimulus checks – as a possible compromise for negotiations on the next round of coronavirus relief legislation. Additional aid to states is one of the main points of contention in stalled negotiations, with the Democratic-led House proposing an additional $1 trillion in state aid to avoid severe and widespread state budget crises, while the Republican-led Senate’s plan only contains money for schools that reopened for in-person classes. | The Baton Rouge Advocate’s Bryn Stole reports:

Cassidy has for months pushed a proposed $500 billion federal fund to plug holes in state and local government budgets, citing the particularly heavy blow the pandemic has dealt to government budgets in Louisiana and especially the New Orleans area. … Cassidy pointed to a Moody’s study which flagged heavy reliance on natural resource royalties, sales taxes and tourism as particularly stark risk factors for local government budgets: “That’s our state economy.”

Louisiana’s senior senator is proposing a slightly modified version of the stimulus checks sent to most Americans in April as part of the CARES Act: 

Cassidy’s proposal would more heavily tilt the stimulus checks toward parents and families while sending less money to childless adults. The CARES Act sent adults earning less than $75,000 a year a one-time check for $1,200 for each adult and $600 for dependent children. Cassidy’s proposal would tweak that send to everyone — adults and children alike — $1,000 each.

Unemployment benefits stimulate economy

The $600 enhanced federal unemployment benefit does not appear to have depressed job growth. That’s the conclusion of five separate studies from distinguished universities and institutions like Yale and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The main force holding back job growth is the lack of interest in hiring, not people’s unwillingness to work. The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell explains why these benefits are effective at keeping the economy afloat during a prolonged social and economic crisis: 

If anything, research to date suggests the federal benefit supplement has boosted macroeconomic activity and, therefore, likely supported hiring. That’s because these benefits have supported consumer spending, which in turn helps retailers, landlords and other businesses keep workers on their own payrolls. The goal of unemployment insurance is twofold, after all: compassion (help struggling families put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads) and stimulus (support consumer spending so the economy can recover more quickly). For both reasons, Congress should immediately renew this supplement — ideally in a form that links benefit levels to public health and economic conditions, and that phases out as the dual crises abate — as some Democrats have already proposed.

Wave of evictions on the horizon

Congress’s failure to agree on a new stimulus plan, along with the expiration of a federal moratorium on housing evictions, is leading millions of people to the brink of homelessness. Twenty three million people nationwide are at risk of being evicted. Louisiana has the second highest rate of housing insecurity in the nation, with more than 35% of Louisianans questioned by the Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey saying they missed last month’s rent or mortgage payment, or who have slight or no confidence that their household can pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time. The AP’s Regina Garcia Cano and Michael Casey have the story: 

In New Orleans, a legal aid organization saw its eviction-related caseload almost triple in the month since Louisiana’s moratorium ended in mid-June. Among those seeking help is Natasha Blunt, who could be evicted from her two-bedroom apartment where she lives with her two grandchildren. Blunt, a 50-year-old African American, owes thousands of dollars in back rent after she lost her banquet porter job. She has yet to receive her stimulus check and has not been approved for unemployment benefits. Her family is getting by with food stamps and the charity of neighbors. “I can’t believe this happened to me because I work hard,” said Blunt, whose eviction is at the mercy of the federal moratorium. “I don’t have any money coming in. I don’t have nothing. I don’t know what to do. … My heart is so heavy.”

Health care of essential and front-line workers at risk

Five million Medicaid enrollees working in essential frontline industries – including 105,300 Louisianans –  are among those at risk if federal policymakers fail to increase in Medicaid funding or to preserve protections for program enrollees, according to a new analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. With the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic creating a growing need for Medicaid health coverage and a huge dropoff in state revenues, some states have cut Medicaid and other health programs. Others, like Louisiana, are likely to follow suit unless federal policymakers provide additional funds and maintain strong protections for Medicaid enrollees. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Matt Broaddus explains what’s at stake: 

The stakes are high for Medicaid as the President and Congress negotiate another economic relief bill. Unfortunately, the Senate Republican proposal doesn’t include additional increases in the federal share of Medicaid costs (the federal medical assistance percentage, or FMAP), which states need to avoid harmful cuts. And Republicans may seek to weaken important maintenance-of-effort protections, enacted in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in March, that prevent states from cutting Medicaid eligibility or taking away people’s coverage during the public health crisis. A final relief bill that weakens these protections or doesn’t provide additional Medicaid funding could hurt millions of essential and front-line workers who are sacrificing to help the nation through the pandemic.

Number of the Day

69% – Percentage of small-business owners who think that minority-owned small businesses face more challenges than non-minority-owned businesses. This is up 17 points from the start of the year and is mostly propelled by the shift in attitudes of non-minority business owners (Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife).