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President’s Forum: Current Lay of the Land in Washington

House Passes Latest Coronavirus Bill as Some Call for “Pause”

John Hodge, PHADA President

As tens of millions of Americans are now out of work, Congress has stepped up and appropriated trillions of dollars to deal with the huge economic losses caused by the coronavirus. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is injecting trillions of additional dollars into the economy through historically low interest rates and loans to U.S. businesses. The unemployment rate now stands at almost 15 percent, the highest since the Great Depression. Unfortunately, it appears it will continue to rise in the coming weeks.

To address the escalating crisis, both houses of Congress are considering additional legislation to address the pandemic. As of this writing, some in the Trump Administration and Congress have called for a “pause” as they say they want to first see how successful the new appropriations are in dealing with the crisis. Conversely, the House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion piece of legislation on May 15, which is covered in more detail in the cover article here.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said for some time that a top priority is to address the monumental loss of revenue of state and local governments. Those losses have been staggering throughout the country as sales and personal and business income tax revenues have plummeted because of stay at home orders and inactivity.

The Senate is taking more of a “wait and see” approach to determine its next course of action. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated that one objective is enacting liability protection for businesses that are concerned they could be sued if employees become sick in the workplace. For his part, President Trump has said he would like to see a payroll tax cut in the next round of legislation. All of these provisions are controversial in some quarters and could potentially bog down any legislative package that could pass in both chambers.

 

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