When the full U.S. Congress returns Monday, the first — and perhaps only — order of business is to take on the proposals for another stimulus package.
Despite June’s positive employment numbers, there are three facts:
1. Yes, the U.S. economy just posted its best single-month job gain in history.
2. However, U.S. unemployment is at one of its worst points since the Great Depression.
3. With the disastrous restarting of the economy in June, who knows what the future will hold for the long-term economic well-being of the country.
It’s clear there has been a spike in COVID-19 cases. The spike, centered primarily in the South and West, has led states such as California, Texas, Arizona and Florida to reclose or otherwise clamp down again on bars, restaurants, movie theaters, beaches and swimming pools — throwing some workers out of jobs for a second time.
While major industries and businesses such as airlines and automakers were affected, arguably the hardest hit have been small businesses, many of which might not return.
About 100,000 small businesses are projected to have permanently shut their doors since the coronavirus outbreak was declared in March, according to a May study from economists at the University of Illinois, Harvard University and the University of Chicago.
When the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed its version of the next stimulus package, Senate Republicans called it dead on arrival.
Republicans in the Senate, now though, have begun saying another stimulus round is needed.
However, there are sticking points between what Democrats want and what Republicans want.
While formal talks have yet to take place, here is what Forbes magazine listed as probably on the table.
• Payroll tax holiday of a 6.5 percent increase to after-tax wages for people going back to work or working.
• Unemployment reforms.
• Return-to-work type bonuses of a modest nature.
• Extensions to the Paycheck Protection Program.
• Targeted assistance from direct mail checks to individuals and families.
• Capital gains tax holiday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has come out as supporting another stimulus round but has indicated the payments could be reserved for people who earned less than $40,000, rather than the $75,000 level in the last package.
While Republicans say they support basic unemployment protection, McConnell and the administration do not want to extend the $600-per-week federal boost in unemployment benefits that will end next week and on which 30 million Americans rely.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said even if an unemployment boost was extended, he was not comfortable with benefits being “more than 100 percent” of a worker’s pay.
It’s good that Congress and the administration have agreed that another stimulus round is needed. Now, they just need to hammer out the details.
• Dave Mathews