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) released its initial estimate of first quarter gross domestic product (GDP), showing that real GDP shrank at an annual rate of 4.8%—the worst quarterly decline since the Great Recession.

This means that the economy went into recession during the first quarter of the year (January-March) when social distancing as a result of the coronavirus was just beginning. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that GDP will shrink even more during the second quarter—40 percent on an annualized basis.

“This decline, and the one to come, should be a thunderbolt for President Trump, Senate Majority Leader McConnell and others who would rather force states to cut critical services than give them the federal assistance they need to fight the coronavirus. If states do not get the support they need, this horrible recession could turn into a depression. Depriving state and local governments of the federal assistance that the National Governors Association and others are calling for would be the equivalent of driving past a fire in a fire truck,” Congressman Beyer said.

“Congress needs to follow the lead of governors, mayors, firefighters, teachers, police officers, health care workers and others who are on the frontlines of this public health crisis, as well as all of the families who are following stay-at-home orders to stop the spread of the virus—they know their state and local governments need help now and for the foreseeable future and expect us to do our jobs.”

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman 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 at Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to Switzerland and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), the Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), released a report that argues that the next coronavirus relief legislation should tie unemployment benefits and other economic support to economic conditions—providing much-needed certainty to American families, businesses and state and local governments that they will have what they need for as long as the public health and economic crises last. As the report shows, an effective way to accomplish this is by including automatic triggers in the legislation, which would allow economic support to continue automatically until economic conditions are met or “triggered.”

Top economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and Heather Boushey have long supported using automatic stabilizers, which are similar to automatic triggers. In addition to providing certainty to American families, businesses, and state and local governments, using automatic triggers to provide unemployment insurance, Medicaid, SNAP and other forms of economic support would help the economy by slowing the recession and speeding up the recovery. Using automatic triggers would also strengthen consumer confidence and support for essential public health measures.

“Much of the current economic support provided by Congress expires on arbitrary dates, which means workers and their families could soon be left without a way to pay their bills or put food on the table. If we are asking people to follow stay-at-home orders, then they need to know that they will receive economic support as long as they need it. If staying at home means going broke, then people are not going to do it, and that puts us all at greater risk,” Congressman Beyer said.

Congressman Beyer continued, “When I think about the next coronavirus relief legislation, two words come to mind—automatic triggers, specifically those tied to economic conditions. Economists do not know whether it will take months or years for our economy to recover from this public health crisis so it critical that Congress automatizes assistance for workers and their families until the entire country—not just a few states—is back open for business." 

“Americans need to have confidence that they will get the help they need to outlast the crisis. They should not have to trust that Congress will pass the fifth or sixth relief legislation in time to save them from financial ruin,” Congressman Beyer said.

Congressman Beyer first called for the use of automatic triggers on April 9 after the Department of Labor reported first-time unemployment claims exceeded 6.6 million for the second week in a row. He called again for the use of automatic triggers on April 15 after the U.S. Census Bureau reported an 8.7 percent drop in retail sales during the month of March.

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman 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 at Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to Switzerland and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.

New Report Explains Why Black, Latino, Low-Income Communities are Disproportionately Impacted by the Coronavirus

A CDC study of coronavirus hospitalization in March across 14 states showed that 33% of admitted patients were Black, despite Blacks making up just 18% of that study’s population.

Apr 24 2020

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), the Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), released a report that explains why Black, Latino and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus.

As the report shows, Black, Latino and low-income Americans are more likely to have pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, chronic lung disease, diabetes and heart disease—a CDC report found that nine of 10 Americans hospitalized for coronavirus had these health conditions. In addition, they are more likely to do person-to-person work in the service industry—often without benefits like paid sick leave, health insurance and the flexibility to work from home.

Black, Latino and low-income Americans are also more likely to suffer economic impacts from the recession caused by coronavirus because they historically experience higher unemployment rates, lower income and much less wealth.

“As a result of a corrosive cocktail of systemic inequalities, tens of thousands of people across the country are more likely to die from the coronavirus because of who they are, what they do and where they live,” Congressman Beyer said.

“Not everyone has a job that will allow them to work from home and those that do not are disproportionately low-income and people of color,” Congressman Beyer said. “Public-sector jobs that have been pathways to the middle class for so many black families—essential jobs to keep society running—are now risky. I keep thinking about the black bus driver in Detroit who, like so many of those in the service industry, was torn between a paycheck and protecting his health—a few weeks after complaining about the lack of health protections on his bus he died of coronavirus.”

Congressman Beyer added, “As Congress thinks through how to help the nation respond and recover from the coronavirus, it is important that we remember that race neutral programs and policies do not always have race neutral impacts. We saw this play out with some of the small business programs that were included in previous legislative responses to the coronavirus—even though they are eligible, small-business owners of color are having a harder time accessing federal loans through their local banks. I am pleased that in the bill passed yesterday we improved access by ensuring more funds are available to minority-owned businesses.”

One of the communities hardest hit by the coronavirus is the Black community. A CDC study of coronavirus hospitalization in March across 14 states showed that 33% of admitted patients were Black, despite Blacks making up just 18% of that study’s population. In Louisiana and Chicago, 70% of people who have died from coronavirus have been Black, despite Black Americans making up just one-third of the population in both places. In Washington, D.C., 81% of the people who have died from the coronavirus have been Black, despite Black Americans making up 46% of the population. Nationally, 24% of Black Americans and Latinos work in the service industry compared to 16% of Whites.

In addition to Black, Latino and low-income communities, the report shows the disproportionate impact the coronavirus is having on the Native American communities. Though national level statistics are scarce, available data show the Navajo Nation has seen the highest number of confirmed cases (1,360) and deaths (52) thus far . In New Mexico, Native Americans make up 11% of the population and 37% of those confirmed with coronavirus.

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman 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 at Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to Switzerland and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.

Vice Chair Beyer on UI Claims: State Unemployment Systems Need an Upgrade

"...it is easier to find toilet paper than it is to file for unemployment."

Apr 16 2020

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 Department of Labor reported that first-time unemployment claims for the week ending April 11 reached 5 million. (The seasonally adjusted number was 5.2 million.) This means that more than 20 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last four weeks as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus.

“These numbers would be even scarier if all of the Americans who have lost their jobs in recent weeks could actually file a claim. But many cannot because unemployment systems across the country have not been upgraded in decades. In one state, workers are being asked to send information for unemployment via fax machine, a technology older than many filers, which few have access to in the home. In other states, it is easier to find toilet paper than it is to file for unemployment.

“Last week, the Joint Economic Committee released a report calling for massive aid to state and local governments and one of the reasons it is needed is because states are likely going to reach a point where they have to borrow money to pay unemployment benefits like they did after the Great Recession. Massive aid is also needed to help states upgrade their unemployment systems.”

Congressman Beyer has been tracking unemployment claims over the past month and has noted previously that they are substantially worse than during the Great Recession and should be addressed by providing significant support to small businesses and their employees and using automatic triggers to ensure Medicaid payments to states and unemployment benefits to workers continue at sufficient levels until the economy has recovered.

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman 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 at Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to Switzerland and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.

In Response to “Drastic” Drop in Retail Sales, Vice Chair Beyer Again Calls for Automatic Triggers

"...it is easier to find toilet paper than it is to file for unemployment."

Apr 15 2020

Washington, D.C.—Today, after the U.S. Census Bureau reported an 8.7 percent drop in retail sales during the month of March, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), the Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, again called for automatic triggers in the next legislative response to the coronavirus. The drop was more than two times worse than the previous record drop of 3.9 percent in November 2008.

Automatic triggers are a mechanism by which Congress can continue to provide automatic assistance to businesses, workers or other entities as long as the economy remains weak. These triggers would be linked to an economic indicator like the unemployment rate and turn off when the economy becomes strong.

“As a former business owner, this drastic drop—more than two times worse than the worst on record—puts a pit in my stomach. And the retail reality may be even worse than this number reveals because Americans were stockpiling groceries and other goods during the first few weeks of March.

“When I think about the next legislative response to the coronavirus, two words come to mind—automatic triggers, specifically those tied to economic conditions. Since it is impossible to know how long this drop will last, it is critical that Congress automatizes assistance for retailers and their workers until America is back open for business.

“Retailers and their workers should not have to wait and wonder if Congress will summon the political will to give them the assistance we know they need now.”

Congressman Beyer first called for automatic triggers last week after the Department of Labor reported first-time unemployment claims exceeded 6.6 million for the second week in a row.

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman 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 at Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to Switzerland and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.

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 ahead of the Department of Labor’s weekly release of first-time unemployment claims. Claims for the week ending April 11 are expected to exceed 4 million, which means the total number of claims for the past four weeks will total well over 20 million.

“These numbers would be even scarier if all of the Americans who have lost their jobs in recent weeks could actually file a claim. But many cannot because unemployment systems across the country have not been upgraded in decades. In one state, workers are being asked to send information for unemployment via fax machine, a technology older than many filers, which few have access to in the home. In other states, it is easier to find toilet paper than it is to file for unemployment.

“Last week, the Joint Economic Committee released a report calling for massive aid to state and local governments and one of the reasons it is needed is because states are likely going to reach a point where they have to borrow money to pay unemployment benefits like they did after the Great Recession. Massive aid is also needed to help states upgrade their unemployment systems.”

Congressman Beyer has been tracking unemployment claims over the past month and has noted previously that they are substantially worse than during the Great Recession and should be addressed by providing significant support to small businesses and their employees and using automatic triggers to ensure Medicaid payments to states and unemployment benefits to workers continue at sufficient levels until the economy has recovered.

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman 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 at Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to Switzerland and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.

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 ahead of the Department of Labor’s weekly release of first-time unemployment claims. Claims for the week ending April 11 are expected to exceed 4 million, which means the total number of claims for the past four weeks will total well over 20 million.

“These numbers would be even scarier if all of the Americans who have lost their jobs in recent weeks could actually file a claim. But many cannot because unemployment systems across the country have not been upgraded in decades. In one state, workers are being asked to send information for unemployment via fax machine, a technology older than many filers, which few have access to in the home. In other states, it is easier to find toilet paper than it is to file for unemployment.

“Last week, the Joint Economic Committee released a report calling for massive aid to state and local governments and one of the reasons it is needed is because states are likely going to reach a point where they have to borrow money to pay unemployment benefits like they did after the Great Recession. Massive aid is also needed to help states upgrade their unemployment systems.”

Congressman Beyer has been tracking unemployment claims over the past month and has noted previously that they are substantially worse than during the Great Recession and should be addressed by providing significant support to small businesses and their employees and using automatic triggers to ensure Medicaid payments to states and unemployment benefits to workers continue at sufficient levels until the economy has recovered.

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman 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 at Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to Switzerland and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.

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 Department of Labor reported that first-time unemployment claims for the week ending April 4 reached 6.6 million. This means that nearly 17 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last three weeks as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus.

“This is a catastrophe. Nearly 17 million Americans have lost their jobs and they likely won’t find another one until the contagion is under control—and that may be a long way off. Congress can’t address this piecemeal—Americans need to know that they’ll get the support they need as long as the crisis lasts. That means building triggers in a follow-up to The CARES Act so that support automatically continues when it’s needed and discontinues when it’s not.”

Congressman 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.

Washington, D.C.—Today, in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), the Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, urged the Trump cabinet official to facilitate swift and successful implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by providing clear guidance to small businesses and lenders.

A key element of Congress’s third legislative response to the coronavirus, the purpose of the $350 billion loan program is to help small businesses retain and rehire their employees and pay their rent and utilities. However, confusion about the program—especially as it relates to eligibility—has resulted in many small businesses not receiving loans.

“As a Member of Congress and former small-business owner, I have received many calls from small firms and nonprofits, who are in desperate need of PPP funds but express frustration over the slow process, confusing information and roadblocks,” Beyer wrote.

Beyer continued, “There are bigger questions around eligibility. I have heard reports that both 2019 and the last 12 months are in play when determining loan size. Which is correct? Similarly, there is confusion about what constitutes 'significant economic damage' from COVID-19. Finally, Treasury’s rules require that 75 percent of loans go to cover payroll costs, but this limits assistance for businesses that have a substantial share of costs tied up in rent and utilities. These are critical issues that need to be addressed and clarified quickly.”

On Thursday, the night before PPP launched, Congressman Beyer and other members of the Virginia Delegation held an urgent conference call with representatives of over a dozen Virginia lending institutions to discuss questions and concerns about the loan program. 

Full text of letter is below and here.

April 6, 2020

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220

Dear Secretary Mnuchin:

I am writing to urge the administration to move quickly to provide clear guidance to small businesses and lenders to facilitate swift and successful implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a key element of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act.

We all share a common goal which is to ensure loans from the $350 billion program get out the door quickly so that small businesses are able to retain or rehire their employees and cover their rent and utilities. This is a case where speed really does matter.

As a Member of Congress and former small-business owner, I have received many calls from small firms and nonprofits, who are in desperate need of PPP funds but express frustration over the slow process, confusing information and roadblocks.

For example, because guidance wasn’t released until late last Thursday April 2, many banks and large institutions did not launch their programs by the Friday deadline. Others would lend only to those with an existing relationship with the bank. And some banks have told small businesses that they had already run out of money to lend and did not have the capacity to meet the widespread demand.

Small changes could go a long way. For example, data stamps on Treasury guidance and bulletins are needed so that businesses know which document is the operative document. Updating the Treasury website with the latest guidance will help small firms access the latest information quickly and efficiently.

There are bigger questions around eligibility. I have heard reports that both 2019 and the last 12 months are in play when determining loan size. Which is correct? Similarly, there is confusion about what constitutes “significant economic damage” from COVID-19. Finally, Treasury’s rules require that 75 percent of loans go to cover payroll costs, but this limits assistance for businesses that have a substantial share of costs tied up in rent and utilities. These are critical issues that need to be addressed and clarified quickly.

As a former small-business owner, I worked hard to ensure that the Paycheck Protection Program provides small firms and their employees access to the financial assistance they need to weather this storm. If implemented and administered well, the PPP can play a major role in meeting that challenge.

I look forward to working you on this and other related issues as we work to limit the spread of COVID-19 and contain the economic damage caused by the virus. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

DON BEYER
Vice Chair, Joint Economic Committee

New Report Argues that Federal Aid to States, Local Governments is Crucial for Containing Coronavirus, Preventing Economic Disaster

Includes Recommendations for Congress’s Fourth Coronavirus Legislative Response

Apr 03 2020

Washington, D.C. —Today, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), the Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, released a report arguing that federal aid to state and local governments is crucial for containing the coronavirus and preventing economic disaster and should be a major focus of Congress’s fourth legislative response to the public health crisis.

As the report shows, states are being simultaneously strained by skyrocketing spending to combat the coronavirus and large losses in revenue (i.e. sales tax, income tax, tourism). Furthermore, since almost every state is required by law to balance its budget, this may force many to cut spending in areas like education.

Budget cuts at the state level will in turn force budget cuts at the local level, creating a downward spiral that will slow response and recovery nationwide.

“State and local governments are crying out for assistance, and our health and economy depend on Congress helping them,” Beyer said. “If Congress does not respond with aggressive aid, we risk repeating the mistakes of the Great Recession, which lasted years longer for state and local governments because the federal government left them to fend for themselves.”

Beyer continued, “No one should think that this is someone else’s problem. While the fire is hottest in New York right now, it soon will burn from state to state, especially if Congress does not do enough to help state and local governments. As a result, every town in America will be crushed by the coronavirus and our economy will fall a lot further than it has already fallen.”

As the report shows, Medicaid will account for much of states’ increased spending since individuals who lose their jobs (and employer-sponsored health insurance) will need to enroll and many current enrollees will contract the coronavirus and need to be cared for. While the second coronavirus response package includes a 6.2 percentage point increase in the federal government’s share of Medicaid funding (known as the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage or FMAP), the increase was about 3.8 percentage points less than the average increase in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. On average, states cover about 40 percent of the cost of Medicaid with the federal government paying the rest.

“One of the most important things Congress’s fourth legislative response must do is increase the federal government’s share of Medicaid funding—the current increase is less than what was given to states during the Great Recession and should be much higher, especially when you consider that the joint federal-state health insurance program is states’ second biggest cost and 10 million people have filed for unemployment over the last two weeks,” Beyer said. “The last thing we want states to do is reduce Medicaid eligibility in the middle of a public health crisis.”

Beyer continued, “Congress’s fourth legislative response must increase aid to state and local governments and allow the Federal Reserve to purchase long-term state and local debt.”

Congressman 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.