To ease the continued burdens of the coronavirus pandemic, Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin said Wednesday morning that it is critical the next federal relief package includes an extension of the extra $600 per week in unemployment payments, transitional-jobs funding, and work-share program funding.
Baldwin, speaking during a virtual town hall hosted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said the best way to get these critical components included in the next Congressional COVID bill is for Wisconsinites to call their federal representatives, especially Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, to coax them into action.
“Perhaps Congress thought this would be over by now,” Baldwin said. “Clearly it’s not, and clearly the economic impact is going to last a long time to come.”
Getting those provisions past the Senate — and President Donald Trump — will likely be an uphill battle, as both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump have signaled opposition to more spending on struggling citizens, especially the extension of the $600 weekly unemployment insurance payment boost. McConell has also refused to take up a second package, passed by the Democratic House, that would have extended the boost through next January.
“We will be very shortsighted if we let that drop,” Baldwin said.
The unemployment boost is set to expire July 31, and Republicans have no intention of extending it, even as the U.S. is officially in a recession and the national unemployment rate remains a devastatingly high 11.1 percent in the wake of the pandemic. Baldwin spoke most urgently of the need to extend the boost.
“We would have even more evictions, foreclosures, lack of nutritional security, etc. than we’re seeing (without the extension),” she said. “That money flows through the economy.”
More funding for work-share programs would mean more people could return to work on a part-time basis but still get paid their pre-pandemic salary, and increased spending on transitional jobs programs could help employ those who have lost their jobs outright due to the pandemic.
Baldwin offered at least some hope, as Trump has admitted the country needs another round of relief, and said this week that he wants another bill passed by Congress’ August recess. However, he wants the bill’s cost capped at $1 trillion (the first major federal package was $2 trillion), something Baldwin vowed to fight against during negotiations.
“We need to look at need, not just artificial caps,” Baldwin said.
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