Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), the Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), released the following statement after the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported this morning its initial estimate of second quarter gross domestic product (GDP), showing that real GDP shrank at an annual rate of 32.9%—the worst quarterly decline in history.

The Department of Labor (DOL) also reported this morning that 2 million workers filed new unemployment claims (not seasonally adjusted) for the week ending July 25, which includes 830,000 that filed claims under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for gig workers and others.

In addition, DOL reported that 30.2 million Americans received unemployment compensation during the week ending July 11, which includes the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) that is scheduled to expire tomorrow. 

From Congressman Beyer: 

“On the day government agencies report that there are 30 million Americans on unemployment and that we experienced the worst quarterly decline in GDP in history, Republicans are proposing cuts to support for families, businesses and state and local governments that would hurt our economy—not help it.

“One of the most egregious examples is their proposal to cut enhanced unemployment benefits by $400, which the Economic Policy Institute estimates would not only harm millions of workers, but result in 2.5% less in GDP and 3.4 million fewer jobs created over the next year.

“I am not sure what more Republicans need to see. More than one million Americans have filed new unemployment insurance claims for 19 straight weeks. The unemployment rate remains the highest it has been in 80 years and will likely remain above 10 percent in the fourth quarter of this year.

“We are down 15 million jobs from February, including 3 million jobs that have been permanently lost. Partly as a result, one fifth of American households could not make any portion of their rent or mortgage payment on time in July.

“While millions struggle to pay their bills, McConnell and company cut their checks and give us more of the same—foolish fantasies that markets can fix what only government can and the coronavirus will contain itself. Our country has a steep hill to climb during the third and fourth quarters of this year and Republicans are making it even steeper.”

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman Don Beyer is currently serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital. In addition to his role as Vice Chair of the JEC, Beyer serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Previously, Beyer served as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and Ambassador to Switzerland, and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.

About the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee

The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee is Congress’s bicameral economic think tank. It was created when Congress passed the Employment Act of 1946. Under this Act, Congress established two advisory panels: the President's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) and the JEC. Their primary tasks are to review economic conditions and recommend improvements in economic policy.

Chairmanship of the JEC alternates between the Senate and House every Congress. Currently, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is the chair and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) is the vice chair.

Washington, D.C.—Today, at a U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) hearing on boosting economic confidence and reducing uncertainty during the coronavirus, Vice Chair Don Beyer (D-VA) called on Congress to automate enhanced unemployment benefits, SNAP, Medicaid and other supports families need during the current economic crisis and future ones by tying them to the unemployment rate. This would ensure that such supports continue as long as they are needed without the need for a vote by Congress.

Yesterday, Vice Chair Beyer introduced with Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA) the Worker Relief and Security Act, legislation that would provide enhanced unemployment benefits to those who are out of work until the unemployment rate in their states returns to pre-crisis levels. The legislation is based on a legislative framework released in May that was developed with Kilmer, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), and has received the support of leading economists—including former Federal Reserve Chairs Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke, as well the Democratic witnesses for today’s hearing, Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein.

As Vice Chair Beyer, Boushey and Bernstein explained during the hearing, automating support in this way boosts economic confidence and reduces economic uncertainty for families, businesses and state and local governments, helping to promote economic recovery.

Vice Chair Beyer said:

“In an economic crisis like the one we are in now, Congress’s role is to assure families, businesses and state and local governments that they will get the support they need as long for as they need it. Currently, however, because of the petty, partisan, political posturing of Senate Republicans, tens of millions of unemployed Americans are waiting for a vote that will determine whether they can pay rent or put food on the table.

“Congress should take politics out of this and use a data-based approach instead—one that ties enhanced unemployment benefits and other similar support to economic conditions, so they ramp up when families need them and ramp down when they do not.

“Sadly, there are Members of Congress who derive their political power, even build their entire careers around forcing dramatic, dangerous showdowns on Capitol Hill. In the past, they threatened to shut down the federal government; today, they threaten to allow enhanced unemployment benefits to expire. They rob millions of Americans of help they desperately need while unemployment is sky high. When politicians play these games, real people get hurt."

Dr. Boushey said:

“Enhanced unemployment benefits should end when objective conditions show they are no longer needed. An unemployment-rate-based ‘trigger’ that only turns off when a stable recovery is underway would allow this program to wind down automatically.” (Read her full testimony here.)

Jared Bernstein said:

“By forcefully taking charge of the public health aspects of the crisis and by ensuring that fiscal relief will be there as long and as deeply as people need it, Congress can help reduce the American people’s uncertainty and economic insecurity. I strongly urge you to do so and will be happy to help in any way I can.” (Read his full testimony here.)

The hearing took place against a backdrop of negotiations between the House, Senate and White House over the next coronavirus relief package. Key differences between the House on the one side, which passed the HEROES Act on May 15, and the Senate and White House on the other, which didn't release a legislative package until late in the day on Monday, include extending enhanced unemployment benefits that expire at the end of July as well as aid for state and local governments.

Congressional Republicans are currently proposing to extend enhanced unemployment benefits but cut them from $600 to $200 until states can improve their unemployment insurance systems. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the $400 cut in benefits would reduce GDP by 2.5 percent and cost the economy 3.4 million jobs over the next year.

Vice Chair Beyer said: 

“During a global pandemic, the federal government should provide more certainty for families, businesses and state and local governments—not less. Now, because Senate Republicans let enhanced unemployment benefits lapse in the first place, they have created a financial headache for families who count on these benefits and businesses who count on the consumer spending they enable. We can and must do better for the millions of families who are counting on this support.”

Read Vice Chair Beyer’s written opening statement here.

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman Don Beyer is currently serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital. In addition to his role as Vice Chair of the JEC, Beyer serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Previously, Beyer served as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and Ambassador to Switzerland, and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.

About the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee

 The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee is Congress’s bicameral economic think tank. It was created when Congress passed the Employment Act of 1946. Under this Act, Congress established two advisory panels: the President's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) and the JEC. Their primary tasks are to review economic conditions and to recommend improvements in economic policy.

Chairmanship of the JEC alternates between the Senate and House every Congress. Currently, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is the Chair and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) is the Vice Chair.

Beyer, Kilmer Introduce Unemployment Legislation Amid Lapse In Benefits

Automatic stabilizers legislation follows bicameral framework endorsed by Fed Chairs and leading economists

Jul 27 2020

July 27, 2020 (Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), Vice Chair and House leader of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Chair of the New Democrat Coalition, today introduced the Worker Relief and Security Act. The legislation would automatically continue and provide for additional enhanced emergency unemployment benefits for the duration of the public health emergency and ensuing economic crisis until conditions return closer to pre-crisis levels.

Beyer and Kilmer introduced the bill amid a lapse in enhanced federal unemployment benefits resulting from Senate Republicans’ failure to pass an extension.

“The Worker Relief and Security Act would ensure that we never have another unemployment lapse for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Beyer. “This is a deadly serious moment as 30 million unemployed workers face a drastic cut in income caused by Senate Republicans. Congress is making the greatest economic crisis this country has faced since the Great Depression worse. The gap in unemployment benefits will inflict anguish on millions of American families, many of whom will have extreme difficulty paying for food and housing, and do serious damage to the economy. This must never happen again.”

Beyer and Kilmer’s Worker Relief and Security Act builds off a previously released framework developed with Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

“The staggering impact of the coronavirus on our communities increases by the day, and yet the federal government is still struggling to keep up with the needs of communities in our regions and across the country,” said New Democrat Coalition Chair Derek Kilmer. “Instead of getting out ahead of the problem, we just see a repetition of the scene from Jaws in which Brody says, ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat.’  With this bill, Congress can provide a bigger boat – and one that meets the size of the problem as conditions persist or worsen.  Our communities cannot afford to face a cliff every few months. We need automatic stabilizers in coronavirus response and recovery efforts that ensure the duration of assistance meets the duration of the crisis and recovery. This bill will help ensure states, workers, businesses, and families have a little certainty in uncertain times.”

Beyer consulted top economists and policymakers in developing the Worker Relief and Security Act, many of whom endorsed the bill. A list of endorsements and supporting comments is available here, including quotes from former Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, former Federal Reserve Chairs Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke, former Chair of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers Jason Furman, former National Economic Advisor to President Obama and President Clinton Gene Sperling, Director of Macroeconomic Policy for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth Claudia Sahm, Former U.S. Department of Labor Chief Economist (2014-2017) and current Economic Policy Institute Senior Economist and Director of Policy Heidi Shierholz, Chief Economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Former Chief Economist at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers Chad Stone, and more.

The Worker Relief and Security Act would extend the $600 weekly federal unemployment compensation benefits through the duration of the COVID-19 public health crisis, provide for unlimited unemployment coverage weeks through January 2021, and then continue providing enhanced compensation and additional coverage weeks determined by national and state total unemployment rates.

Text of the Worker Relief and Security Act is available here with a two-page explainer here.

OP-ED: GOP Refusal to Extend Unemployment Benefits is Very Dangerous

By: Rep. Don Beyer | The American Independent

Jul 24 2020

Congressional Republicans are holding 34 million unemployed Americans hostage, threatening to let expire the $600 in enhanced unemployment benefits that is helping distraught families survive the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. They waited until benefits are only a day away from disappearing as a misguided way to gain political leverage.

They are playing a dangerous game with people's lives.

While Republicans stall on renewing benefits, unemployment claims have been more than twice the worst week of the Great Recession for 18 consecutive weeks; more than 11% of American workers are unemployed; there are four job seekers for every opening; and millions have given up looking for work because entire sectors of the economy are partly shut down.

But Republicans say unemployed workers are getting too much assistance from the federal government — it makes them lazy. Senate Republicans should tell that to the more than 16 million unemployed Americans who live in the states they represent. The simple fact is that there aren't jobs to be had right now, and there won't be until we get the virus under control.

The best way to address the extreme financial pressure facing American families is for Congress and the president to pledge to the American people that we will help as long as help is needed. We are all in it together. We are one nation, faced with the greatest challenge since World War II and the greatest health crisis in 100 years.

It didn't have to be this way. Donald Trump has badly bungled the coronavirus crisis, and we are paying an extraordinarily high price in lives lost and economic damage. If he had simply taken the advice of experts, not done the opposite of what they say, we wouldn't be facing 66,000 new coronavirus cases a day.

Republicans have followed him in lockstep, fearing his wrath so much that they remained silent while he recklessly refused to take action and then threatened governors if they did not "liberate" their economies.

As a result, cases of COVID-19 are skyrocketing, state economies are closing again, 2.3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, millions of Americans stand in lines at food banks or have applied for food stamps, and 28 million renter households are at significant risk of eviction. A survey by the Census Bureau of more than 80 million households found that more than 40% of Americans report serious anxiety or stress.

Refusing to extend enhanced unemployed benefits would damage the economy. The Congressional Budget Office estimates extending enhanced federal unemployment benefits would boost overall economic output in the second half of 2020.

The expiration of enhanced benefits could spur a sharp decline in consumer spending, leading to a new round of business closures and more layoffs. The Economic Policy Institute projects that letting the expanded benefit expire would cost 5 million jobs over the next year due to a drop in consumer spending. Job losses and business closures are already becoming more permanent.

In mid-May, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that "we're not quite ready to intelligently lay down the next step, but it's not too far off." Now, just a day before enhanced federal unemployment benefits will effectively expire in most states, Senate Republicans aren't much closer to passing a bill.

Republicans are reportedly considering extending the enhanced benefits through the end of the year, but only by an extra amount of $200 per week. That would be a $1,600 cut each month for each unemployed worker. Even that meager offering is in limbo, with Republicans turning on each other as the deadline looms.

If unemployed Americans lose $600 a week in unemployment benefits, there will be widespread suffering. The pain will be felt even in Kentucky, where hundreds of thousands of displaced workers will see their weekly benefits fall to an average of just $332. Like the mismanagement of COVID-19 and the thousands of unnecessary deaths, this too was preventable.

At this point, McConnell and Senate Republicans have guaranteed at least a partial lapse in the benefits as it will take at least a few weeks for state unemployment offices to reprogram their systems.

For McConnell, delay was just a negotiating tactic. He presumably would put congressional Democrats, who are determined to protect American families, in a vise — the families are just collateral damage.

They should have extended enhanced unemployment benefits months ago. In a crisis as horrible as this one, Americans deserve to know that the federal government will be there to help as long as help is needed.

Failing to do the right thing in a crisis is unforgivable.

Rep. Don Beyer (VA-8) serves as vice chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee and is also a member of the New Democrat Coalition.

Senate Adjournment Seals Lapse In Federal Unemployment Benefits

Senate Republicans inflict cruel, unnecessary suffering on the American people

Jul 24 2020

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), Vice Chair and top Democrat on Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, issued the following statement after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed the Senate to adjourn for the week without passing an extension of enhanced federal unemployment benefits, which are set to lapse absent action from Congress by the end of this week:

“Senate Republicans’ failure to act will inflict enormous, unnecessary suffering on millions of Americans. If they do not act soon, we could see a new Great Depression in the United States.

“It is difficult to process the fact that, faced with perhaps our nation’s worst crisis since World War II, the Senate spent two months doing almost nothing but rubber stamping judicial and executive branch nominees. With the pandemic exploding in states they represent, the economic recovery stalling, and job losses accelerating, Senate Republicans simply refused to do anything about it.

“The damage from a lapse in enhanced federal unemployment benefits will radiate throughout the economy. Even if Republicans ultimately pass an extension, it will come too late to help those who are evicted, those who lose their jobs, businesses, or health coverage, and those who go hungry. This is a dark moment for our country.”

The CARES Act added $600 per week to state unemployment payments, with an expiration date “on or before July 31.” Because states process payments on a weekly schedule, which ends on Saturday or Sunday, and the month ends on a Friday, this is the final week to extend enhanced benefits without incurring a lapse.

Over 30 million American workers have applied for or are currently receiving those benefits, according to the Department of Labor.

The House passed the Heroes Act, which contained a provision which would extend the benefit at its current level into January. Mitch McConnell ignored the bill, saying at the time that he felt no “urgency of action.”

Senate Republicans concluded official business for the week without passing an extension, and remain unable to agree with each other and the White House about whether or how to address unemployment benefits. Their competing proposals reportedly differ on whether to reduce flat payments, or to create a new system with a complicated formula to determine the amount of each worker’s benefit. Economic analysis shows that evidence does not support Republican concerns about the $600 benefit creating a disincentive to work.

Many states use outdated systems to process unemployment benefits, which required long delays to process the initial $600 addition and could delay new payments by weeks or months to make changes suggested by Republicans.

The Brookings Institution estimated that the $600 enhanced benefit replaced half of Americans’ lost wages in the month of April. Economists say that the loss of that level of spending power will inflict widespread damage on the economy, leading to new rounds of business closures and layoffs. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that eliminating the $600 addition could cost the economy over 5 million jobs.

Rep. Beyer is the Vice Chair of the Joint Economic Committee and the author, with Rep. Derek Kilmer and Senators Jack Reed and Michael Bennet, of the Worker Relief and Security Act, which would use automatic stabilizers to tie federal unemployment benefits to economic conditions and the public health emergency.

Vice Chair Beyer Statement on UI Claims: 16 Million Unemployed Workers Are Represented by GOP Senators

“Republican senators have the peace of mind of knowing when they are going to get paid, and they should want those who are unemployed in states across the country to have the same.”

Jul 23 2020

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), released the following statement after the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reported that 1.4 million workers filed regular first-time unemployment claims (not seasonally adjusted) for the week ending July 18. This is the 18th week in a row that new regular unemployment claims have exceeded one million.

The DOL found that an additional nearly 1 million workers filed for benefits under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for gig workers and others. In total, more than 2.3 million people filed new unemployment claims last week.

Nearly 32 million received unemployment compensation during the week ending July 4, including the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) that is scheduled to expire within days.

“Every Senator has the certainty of knowing that his or her paycheck will arrive like clockwork on the 5th and the 20th of every month—and that it will be more than enough to pay the bills. It is terribly unfair that Republican senators do not want the same for the 16 million unemployed Americans in their states, not to mention the 32 million workers nationwide who rely on unemployment benefits to get by.

“If Republican senators let expanded unemployment benefits expire, they will leave millions of workers worrying about how they are going to pay for food, rent and medicine.

“Republican senators have the peace of mind of knowing when they are going to get paid, and they should want those who are unemployed in states across the country to have the same.”

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman Don Beyer is currently serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital. In addition to his role as Vice Chair of the JEC, Beyer serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Previously, Beyer served as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and Ambassador to Switzerland, and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.

About the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee

 The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee is Congress’s bicameral economic think tank. It was created when Congress passed the Employment Act of 1946. Under this Act, Congress established two advisory panels: the President's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) and the JEC. Their primary tasks are to review economic conditions and to recommend improvements in economic policy.

Chairmanship of the JEC alternates between the Senate and House every Congress. Currently, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is the Chair and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) is Vice Chair.

JEC Releases New Report on Cost of Gaps in Paid Sick Leave During the Coronavirus Crisis

Released with the report are more than 50 stories collected by AFSCME, MomsRising, SEIU, United Farm Workers and UFW Foundation that show the impact that these gaps are having on workers and their families.

Jul 22 2020

Washington, D.C.—In April, when many Americans were working from home to stay safe from the coronavirus, a farmworker in California—an occupation deemed “essential” by the federal government—was worried about getting sick in the fields.

“I am afraid of potentially getting sick, then not being able to work, and then not being able to pay for my rent, food and medical bills,” the farmworker said. “We do not have any benefits on the job.”

The farmworker’s story is one of more than 50 collected by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), MomsRising, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United Farm Workers (UFW) and UFW Foundation that helped inform a new report released today by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC).

The report draws together evidence and expert opinion on the health and economic costs of gaps in paid sick leave during the current coronavirus crisis. Among other findings, it concludes that:

  •  The United States is the only high-income country without universal paid sick leave. As a result, before the pandemic, approximately one-quarter of American workers did not have paid sick leave at all.
  • While almost all employees of large U.S. corporations have paid sick leave, less than two-thirds at companies with fewer than 50 employees have access to it. 
  • More than 90 percent of the highest-wage earners have paid sick leave, while only 30 percent of the lowest-wage earners do.
  • Only 58 percent of service sector workers and only 45 percent of workers in the hotel and foodservice industries have access to paid sick leave.
  • Workers who do not have access to paid sick leave are three times more likely to go to work sick, delay seeking medical attention or forgo medical care altogether. 

From Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), vice chair of the JEC:

“Even before the pandemic, 36 million American workers did not have paid sick leave and were forced to choose between a paycheck and protecting their health. This perverse incentive puts many others at risk. One of the many things that this pandemic has made clear is that paid sick leave should be a right for all workers not a benefit left to the discretion of employers. We all have an overwhelming interest in making paid sick leave universal, so Americans do not have to risk exposing their co-workers and consumers to the coronavirus and other illnesses out of fear of getting fired or forgoing pay. It would be a shame if the paid sick leave provisions included in the House-passed HEROES Act do not make it into the final version of the next relief package because, as the report and stories confirm, they are sorely needed.”

From Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT):

“This report illustrates what we are witnessing in real time: gaps in our nation’s paid sick leave are not only making it more difficult to contain the coronavirus, but also, they are weakening the economic recovery. Families are forced to choose between their health, and that of their families, coworkers, and communities, and their income and job security. There has never been a more urgent need to expand paid sick days and paid leave to the workers of this country. Any final coronavirus relief package passed by Congress must close these gaps. I will continue fighting for a permanent solution to this problem that existed long before this pandemic.”

From AFSCME President Lee Saunders:

“This public health crisis makes plainer than ever that universal paid sick leave is a moral and economic imperative. It's shocking and unforgivable that it isn't already guaranteed for all working people in the United States, as it is in every other developed nation. It's time for us to finally align public policy with the realities facing working families in the 21st century. The next coronavirus relief bill must include, in addition to at least $1 trillion in state and local aid, paid leave for all—with no carve-outs, opt-outs, or workarounds for employers."

From Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and CEO of MomsRising, the online and on-the-ground organization of more than one million mothers and their families:

“Outdated policies and pervasive discrimination have long penalized women and moms in the workforce, with Black and Latinx women and moms suffering the most due to appalling structural racism that has gone unchecked. The fact that millions of workers cannot earn paid sick days and access paid family and medical leave has long harmed families, businesses and our economy, and is a significant part of the reason we were so ill-prepared for COVID-19. We applaud the Joint Economic Committee for releasing this report today. In the next coronavirus relief bill, moms want Congress to ensure all workers can earn paid sick days and access paid leave, along with quality, affordable child care, and adequate unemployment benefits. We need these policies during the health and economic crises that COVID-19 is causing and we will need them after these crises end.”

From Joyce Barnes, a home care worker for three decades and a member of SEIU Virginia 512 who lives in Sandston, Va.:

“Home care workers, most of us Black and brown women, have long been forgotten, and not just during this pandemic. Poverty wages and lack of basic benefits have made it hard to get by, let alone prepare us if we get sick. Not having sick days means we must go to work no matter how sick we get. It’s an awful choice: go to work when we're sick or get evicted because we can’t make rent.”

From UFW President Teresa Romero: 

“The nation’s food security depends on farmworkers. To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in agricultural communities and further the health, safety and economic security of the people that feed us, the essential women and men who are required to work in agriculture need and deserve sick pay."

From UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres:

“Farm workers are highly skilled workers keeping America fed. More than 2.5 million of farm workers—half undocumented—are deemed essential during the pandemic, but most do not have essential compensation and protections, including paid sick leave, hazard pay and personal protective equipment. Most farm workers and their families are excluded from federal relief efforts due to the lack of legal status either of the farm worker or their spouse. In order to address these systemic inequities, the UFW Foundation has distributed more than 170,000 meals and more than 14,000 emergency food boxes to rural California families, and is distributing 900,000 masks and $11.6 million in cash assistance to farm workers in California, Washington and Oregon. Additionally, as one of 12 community-based nonprofit organizations selected by California to administer its Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants financial assistance program, the UFW Foundation assisted 10,867 immigrants. America cannot deem farm workers essential without providing the pay, benefits and safeguards they deserve to sustain their families and protect themselves, their loved ones, colleagues and communities from the spread of COVID-19. The HEROES Act in the House and Sen. Stabenow's Food Supply Protection Act combined with Sen. Merkley's FARM Laborers Protection Act, would go a long way in addressing the fundamental and life-saving needs of the people that feed us.”

Legislative background

HEROES Act

On May 15, 2020, the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which, if passed by the Senate and signed into law, would extend emergency paid sick leave to millions of additional workers by closing carve-outs that hurt new employees, some federal employees singled out by the Office of Management and Budget, health care workers and emergency responders (who were not included in original emergency provisions) and employees at large and small companies (of greater than 500 employees and less than 50 employees). The legislation would also create a fund to support premium pay for essential workers. Finally the legislation would address widely publicized concerns about Department of Labor employer rules regarding who is and is not eligible for emergency paid sick leave and extend eligibility for non-emergency FMLA.

Congressman Beyer

Congressman Beyer has been a longtime supporter of stronger paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave policies. He is a co-sponsor of the PAID Leave Act which would permanently ensure that workers can accrue 7 paid sick days, as well as provide 14 additional days when there is a public health emergency and 12 weeks of emergency paid family and medical leave—both of which would be fully reimbursed by the federal government. He also was a lead sponsor of the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act, which was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act at the end of 2019, guaranteeing federal employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.

Congresswoman DeLauro

Congresswoman DeLauro has long pressed for paid sick days and paid family and medical leave, first introducing the Healthy Families Act in 2004 and reintroducing every Congress since and introducing the FAMILY Act in 2013 and in every Congress since. Throughout the coronavirus crisis, DeLauro has pushed for paid leave policies and helped to ensure that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act included crucial first steps in establishing a national paid leave policy. She has also introduced the PAID Leave Act, a comprehensive emergency paid sick days and paid family and medical leave bill that is fully funded by the federal government during this emergency, and continues to push for it to be a part of Congress’ continuing coronavirus response efforts.

About the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee

The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee is Congress’s bicameral economic think tank. It was created when Congress passed the Employment Act of 1946. Under this Act, Congress established two advisory panels: the President's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) and the JEC. Their primary tasks are to review economic conditions and to recommend improvements in economic policy.

Chairmanship of the JEC alternates between the Senate and House every Congress. Currently, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is the chair and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) is vice chair.

News Roundup: Economic Disaster Looms

Headlines and stories across the country show growing fear as White House, Senate Republicans dither in the face of expiring unemployment benefits.

Jul 22 2020

Washington, D.C.—After two months of denying the urgent need for economic relief across the country and ignoring the HEROES Act, Senate Republicans and the White House are slowly writing a doomed bill filled with bad policies that will not help. As Republican Senators steadfastly refuse to extend enhanced unemployment benefits which will expire days from now, here’s what the American people are reading:

STATES

Arizona – Arizona Public Media: Loss of federal unemployment dollars will hurt Arizona economy

Colorado – Denver Post: $600 federal unemployment benefit set to expire next week (“Colorado’s unemployment ticks up in June while national rate declines”)

Georgia – Atlanta Journal Constitution: Unemployment remains high as coronavirus slows recovery

Hawaii – KHON: Hawaii’s massive unemployed population dependent on soon-expiring federal assistance

Iowa – Des Moines Register: Iowa's economic recovery staggers, unemployment claims increase for second week

Kansas – KMUW WichitaJobless Kansans Foresee Harder Times Ahead As Federal Aid Nears An End

Kentucky – WAVE: Kentucky, Indiana rank among highest in COVID-19 personal bankruptcy

Louisiana – WVUE: $600 supplement to end in two weeks, unemployed anxious

Maine – Bangor Daily News: Maine sees spike in new jobless claims after weeks-long decline

Massachusetts:  ‘We're Going To Have To Pray': The Extra $600 Unemployment Benefit Is About To Run Out – WBUR Boston

Michigan – Detroit Free Press: Michigan unemployment claims continue to mount as state's reopening pauses

Minnesota – Fox9: DEED warns Minnesotans on unemployment that $600 federal payment ends in July

Missouri – KHSB: $600 unemployment benefit set to expire this month

Nebraska – KPTM: Unemployment concerns spotlighted as jobless law is about to expire

New Mexico – Albuquerque Journal: $600 federal unemployment benefit over at end of month

North Carolina – Charlotte Observer: A crisis looms for NC and the nation as federal relief and eviction bans come to an end

Ohio – Columbus Dispatch: Stuck: New claims for unemployment remain at high levels in Ohio, US

Oregon – The OregonianUnemployed Oregonians worry about survival with $600 federal unemployment benefit set to expire

Pennsylvania – ABC27: Federal stimulus program to end July 25, state offers emergency programs

Rhode Island – Providence Journal: This is last week for $600 unemployment bump: What’s next for R.I.’s jobless?

South Dakota – Argus Leader: South Dakota women majority of unemployed amid COVID-19 pandemic

Tennessee – Nashville Tennessean: For Tennesseans, extra $600 CARES Act unemployment benefit payments end July 25

Texas – Houston Chronicle: Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the U.S. And during the pandemic, an estimated 659,000 Texans lost their health care.

Utah – Salt Lake Tribune / AP: Rising coronavirus infections threaten U.S. economic recovery. Utah’s unemployment claims remain high

Wisconsin – Wisconsin Examiner: The rent is coming due. Will Congress offer more relief as it gets back to work?

NATIONAL

Associated Press: Stress rises for unemployed as extra $600 benefit nears end

NPR: The End Of $600 Unemployment Benefits Will Hit Millions Of Households And The Economy

NBC: Millions of Americans face unemployment cash cliff with no sign of congressional deal

Wall Street Journal: Eviction Looms for Millions of Americans Who Can’t Afford Rent

Vox: If Congress doesn’t act, massive unemployment and a ruined economy may come soon

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), released the following statement ahead of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee’s expected vote on Judy Shelton’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Board.

“Judy Shelton’s extreme ideas, such as advocating a return to the gold standard, are far outside the mainstream and make her unfit to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Pegging the dollar to the price of gold was abandoned by the United States in 1971 and a return to it would have severely constrained the Fed’s aggressive response to the recession resulting from COVID-19.

“Moreover, Dr. Shelton’s past statements and writings show that she does not value the Fed or its independence. In one op-ed, Shelton asked: ‘Why do we need a central bank?’ In another, she called for a ‘more coordinated relationship’ between the Fed and the White House, something that would make it far more difficult for the Fed to pursue its policy mandates based on data and analysis and remain free from political interference. The President already badgers the Fed to cut rates to goose the economy as if it were a political arm of the White House—we do not need to put someone on the Board who thinks such ‘coordination’ is okay.

“In addition, Dr. Shelton has flipped on policy issues depending on which party controls the White House. She was a regular critic of loose monetary policy until President Trump took office. Yet during the Trump administration, she has advocated for lowering rates ‘as fast’ as possible—one reason Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell called Shelton ‘an opportunist and a quack.’

“The current economic crisis once again has underscored the critical role of the Federal Reserve and the need for strong, independent leadership at the central bank. Judy Shelton miserably flunks that test.”

Rep. Don Beyer, the Vice Chair and top Democrat on Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, today issued the following statement on Senate Majority Leader’s announcement that the Senate would take “weeks” to pass legislation that includes an extension of expanded federal unemployment benefits:

“Mitch McConnell may already have doomed the tens of millions of American workers who depend on enhanced federal unemployment benefits to a sudden, sharp decline in income at the end of July.

“Because state unemployment benefits need to be extended by July 25 in order to be processed by states administering their programs, McConnell’s announcement that the Senate will not even begin drafting or negotiating legislation until next week effectively makes a lapse in those expanded payments unavoidable. We may already be out of time to avoid the iceberg.

“The nearly 400,000 Virginians who currently receive up to $978 per week will see that figure cut to a maximum of $378 just as their rent or mortgage payments fall due. McConnell and the Trump Administration could make things even worse by demanding reductions or policy changes that require states to further delay payments to implement changes. Thousands of workers are still waiting to have their initial applications processed by state unemployment systems, and could now have to wait even longer.

“This could have been avoided if McConnell had acknowledged the economic emergency facing our country – and the millions of American families who desperately need help from Congress – and acted on it sooner.”

The CARES Act, which Congress enacted in March, added $600 per week to monthly unemployment insurance payments with an expiration “on or before” July 31, 2020. Most states process unemployment payments on a weekly cycle ending on Saturday or Sunday; because July ends on a Friday, states need an extension by July 24 in order to cover the final week of the month, which runs into August.

Further delays are possible if Republican demands continue to include significant policy changes to federal employment benefits. State programs took weeks and in some cases months to recalibrate their existing unemployment systems to deliver the expanded benefits enacted by the CARES Act, and tens of thousands of workers in states like Kentucky are still waiting to have their initial applications processed.

Nearly 36 million American workers are either receiving unemployment benefits or waiting to have their applications reviewed according to analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute.

The lapse in benefits would likely be reflected in payments that reach unemployed workers on or just before housing payments are due at the beginning of August. Previously reported analysis found that nearly a third of American households made partial or late housing payments or no payment at all in the month of July.

The effects of a lapse in enhanced federal unemployment benefits will not be limited to families who depend on the benefits directly. Analysis by the Brookings Institute found that expanded federal unemployment benefits from the CARES act replaced roughly half of lost wages for American workers in the month of April. Loss of that income could spur a sharp decline in aggregate demand and new rounds of layoffs and business closures.

Leading economists credited CARES Act stimulus, particularly expanded unemployment benefits, with helping to boost the economy and fuel better-than-expected jobs reports for May and June. They warn that a corresponding absence of stimulus could swiftly imperil the recovery. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell urged Congress to spend more in future government aid packages to boost the economy, and the House responded in May with the Heroes Act.

Despite these warnings, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to consider or negotiate new legislation to boost the economy during the pandemic, saying he felt no “urgency of acting.”

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) serves as Vice Chair of the Joint Economic Committee and is the author of the Worker Relief and Security Act, which would use automatic stabilizers to tie expanded unemployment benefits to economic conditions and public health emergency declarations.