- President-elect Joe Biden Announces American Rescue Plan On Thursday, Jan. 14, President-elect Joe Biden announced his $1.9 billion dollar American Rescue Plan to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, build a bridge towards economic recovery, and invest in racial justice. President-elect describes the plan as a package of emergency measures to meet the nation’s immediate economic and health care needs, to be followed in February by a broader relief plan he will unveil in his first appearance before a joint meeting of Congress.
- The American Rescue Plan includes:
- Vaccination: $20 billion in a national vaccination program in partnership with states, localities, Tribes and territories. This will include launching community vaccination centers around the country and deploying mobile vaccination units to hard-to-reach areas.
- Testing: $50 billion for massive expansion in testing. This would provide funds for the purchase of rapid tests, investments to expand lab capacity, and support to help schools and local governments implement regular testing protocols.
- Small Business: Provide grants to more than 1 million of the hardest hit small businesses. This $15 billion in flexible, equitably distributed grants will help small businesses get back on their feet, put the current disaster behind them, and build back better.
- Leverage $35 billion in government funds into $175 billion in additional small business lending and investment. With a $35 billion investment in successful state, local, tribal, and non-profit small business financing programs, Congress can generate as much as $175 billion in low-interest loans and venture capital to help entrepreneurs — including those in the clean energy sector — innovate, create and maintain jobs, build wealth, and provide the essential goods and services that communities depend on.
- Direct Payments: Direct payments of $1,400 to most Americans, bringing the total relief to $2,000, including December’s $600 payments.
- Increase the federal, per-week unemployment benefit to $400 and extending it through the end of September
- Increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
- Expand emergency paid leave to include federal workers.
- Provide a maximum paid leave benefit of $1,400 per-week for eligible workers.
- Reimburse employers with less than 500 employees for the cost of this leave.
- Provide expanded paid sick and family and medical leave.
- State and Local Aid: $350 billion in state and local government aid.
- Democrats in Congress were quick to applaud the rescue plan. in a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said “With the COVID-rescue package the President-elect announced today, he is moving swiftly to deliver that help and to meet the needs of the American people. House and Senate Democrats express gratitude toward and look forward to working with the President-elect on the rescue plan.”
- SBA Issues Regulations on New Round of PPP Loans On January 6, 2021, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Department of Treasury released interim final rules related to the expansion and extension of the original Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the authorization of a second round of PPP loans pursuant to the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package (the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the “Act”)) enacted on December 27, 2020.
- In an effort to promote access to capital, initially only community financial institutions will be able to make new first time PPP loans starting on Monday, January 11, and second draw PPP loans starting on Wednesday, January 13. Shortly thereafter all participating lenders will be able to make PPP loans. The PPP program for both new first time loans and second draw loans will remain open until March 31, 2021. Read the analysis here at JDSupra.
- Biden Tax Plan Gets Boost As Dems Win Senate President-elect Joe Biden will be able to pursue a more ambitious legislative agenda on Capitol Hill following the projected victories of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Georgia Senate runoff elections. Those wins would give Democrats 50 seats in the Senate, which means Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would hold the tie breaker in the event of party-line votes. Congress certified Biden’s victory overnight, hours after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and drove lawmakers into lockdown. But with narrow margins in both chambers, Democratic lawmakers will have to take a very measured approach to any changes they might want to make in the tax code. Read More at Bloomberg
- Top Democrat pushes for tying unemployment insurance to economic conditions Incoming Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Wednesday said he will push for tying additional unemployment benefits to the state of the economy, as opposed to setting deadlines for their expiration.
- Key unemployment insurance provisions in the CARES Act from March expired in August after Congress failed to renew them, and others nearly expired in late December after President Trump delayed signing the latest relief bill.
- Benefits set to expire March 14 include an additional $300 a week for jobless Americans and assistance to self-employed and freelance workers. Some programs will continue paying benefits for eligible recipients into early April.
- Wyden has long pushed for benefits to be tied to economic conditions so that they will phase out as unemployment drops to more manageable levels instead of expiring on an arbitrary date. Read more at the Hill.
Labor & Minimum Wage Update
- Biden Chooses Boston Mayor Walsh As Labor Secretary President-elect Joe Biden has picked Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a former top union leader, to serve as his Labor secretary, according to four sources, ending a selection process that split the labor movement and stoked diversity concerns among Democrats. Walsh beat out a host of other names floated for the position, including Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), former Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris, California Labor Secretary Julie Su and AFL-CIO Chief Economist Bill Spriggs. His selection suggests that Biden was willing to overlook calls for a diversity choice, since Walsh is a white man, and Asian American and Pacific Islanders had been lobbying heavily for Su. Spriggs is Black. Biden was widely expected to choose a Labor Department head who enjoyed the support of unions, given the president-elect's long-standing ties with labor leaders, his support for the right to organize and the key role the agency will play in implementing the sweeping pro-worker agenda he campaigned on. Read More at Politico
- Biden Risks Delayed Relief Plan With Fight Over Minimum Wage President-elect Joe Biden is pushing for quick congressional action on his economic relief plan, but he risks slowing it down with a federal minimum-wage increase that Republicans and business groups have long fought. More than half of U.S. states already have a higher minimum wage than the current $7.25 hourly rate, and the amount in some states automatically increases with the cost of living. And some companies also have minimum wages higher than the federal rate to attract good workers. But it’s unclear whether political support for a federally mandated $15 rate has increased enough over time to overcome opposition to a one-size-fits-all approach and fears about the job losses it could cause -- especially coming out of the pandemic. Read more at Bloomberg.
- Biden, labor secretary nominee vow to boost union membership U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said his labor secretary nominee, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, understands that unions built the American middle class and will encourage unionization. “Marty understands, like I do, that the middle class built this country and unions built the middle class,” Biden said. “He sees how union workers have been holding this country together during this crisis.” Read more at Reuters.
- Biden Team Weighs Business Input in Prepping Virus Worker Rule The Biden labor transition team has been weighing feedback from business groups as the incoming administration prepares to issue a nationwide rule to protect workers from Covid-19, foreshadowing prompt action after Inauguration Day. President-elect Joe Biden‘s agency review team for the Labor Department has been holding calls with industry associations for at least a month to solicit input on a range of economic and safety issues related to the pandemic, business lobbyists from four trade groups told Bloomberg Law.
- The listening sessions have allowed business advocates to make a case about the burdens employers would face in complying with an overly stringent or vaguely worded emergency regulation requiring businesses to take steps to prevent workplace coronavirus infection, the sources said. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to share private conversations, and declined to have their organizations be identified.
- Labor unions and other worker advocates also have been in touch with the transition to advocate for a strong regulation, several sources said. They’re encouraging the incoming administration to take other steps to move away from the Trump Labor Department’s preference to engage in compliance assistance with employers while reserving punitive enforcement for the most egregious actors. Read more at Bloomberg Government.
Transition & Election Update
- Biden taps Isabel Guzman to lead the Small Business Administration President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Isabel Guzman to lead the Small Business Administration (SBA), a transition source confirmed to The Hill. Guzman is director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate, a post she has held since April 2019. Previously, Guzman worked at the SBA under former President Obama as deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to the administrator. Small businesses have been hit particularly hard due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the SBA under President Trump was in charge of accepting applications for loans through the popular Paycheck Protection Program. Read more at the Hill.
- NY-22: The seat will remain vacant to kick off the new Congress as the race between former Reps. Claudia Tenney (R) and Anthony Brindisi (D) remains uncertified. Read more at Syracuse.com.
- IA-02: Pelosi swore in Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) even as 2020 nominee Rita Hart (D) petitions the House Administration Committee to overturn the election results. In November, a state board certified Miller-Meeks' six-vote lead over Hart, who claimed there were at least 22 “legally cast ballots that were unlawfully excluded from the state-certified results.”
- LA-05: Former congressional chief of staff Luke Letlow (R) died earlier this month “from complications of COVID-19,” just days before he was scheduled to be sworn in to replace former Rep. Ralph Abraham (R). Read more at Monroe News-Star.
- NJ GOV: Former Somerset County Freeholder Brian Levine (R) is “creating an exploratory committee to seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2021.” Read more here at New Jersey Globe