Capitol Correspondence - 12.01.20

Big Picture: Issues Hanging in the Balance as Year Ends and Pandemic Continues

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As ANCOR prepares its policy priorities for 2021, we want to ensure our members understand the competing issues and general policy landscape in which our advocacy will be developing. The article below sums up some broader key challenges that will be on the minds of incoming administration officials and members of Congress.

COVID-19 paid leave coming to an end: This issue is also relevant to our members in their functions as employers. As reported by Politico Pro: “Tens of millions of workers stand to lose access to federally mandated paid sick and family leave at the end of December, compounding the hardship over the surging pandemic for American families.

Families First, a relief package enacted in March, required many employers to provide workers with two weeks of coronavirus-related sick leave at full pay and up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave to care for family members at two-thirds pay. Researchers estimate this covered half the U.S. workforce.

But those provisions — which cost about $105 billion — are slated to expire at the end of the year, along with expanded unemployment insurance and other policies, meaning that as many as 87 million public and private sector workers could be deprived of the benefit. That comes as virus cases and deaths are spiking, forcing many communities to roll back business and school re-openings.”

Immigration reform returns on the horizon: As reported by Axios: “Biden has said that on Jan. 20, he’ll rescind Trump’s Muslim ban through executive action, and send legislation to Congress with a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants.”

State aid takes a more prominent role in COVID-19 recovery: As reported by the AP: “Faulting inaction in Washington, governors and state lawmakers are racing to get pandemic relief to small-business owners, the unemployed, renters and others whose livelihoods have been upended by the widening coronavirus outbreak.”

Online learning continues to be a struggle, particularly for students with disabilities: As reported by Axios: “An internal report from Fairfax County, Va. — one of the nation’s largest and best regarded school districts — offers some of the first concrete evidence that online learning is resulting in tanking grades, the WashPost reports.

  • Similar surges in F’s have been reported in Houston and St. Paul.
  • ‘[T]he most vulnerable students — children with disabilities and English-language learners — are suffering the most.’”

Federal Reserve scope of action might be limited: As reported by Politico Pro: “With Biden’s Democrats in danger of failing to win the Senate and a new era of gridlock on the way in Washington, all eyes are on the Fed to pump up the economy in the face of congressional intransigence.

But interest rates are already at zero. The Fed has given billions in aid to companies and municipalities, but it’s not putting money in consumers’ pockets, which is what millions of Americans need most. And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s move last week to wind down most of the emergency lending programs that the Fed introduced at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic for the time being deprives the central bank of one of its most direct ways of boosting the economy. […]

The most direct way the Fed could increase its aid to the economy is through two temporary lending programs designed to help midsized businesses and municipal governments — two of the programs Mnuchin is shutting down at the end of the year. Though Yellen, if confirmed, could at least partially reopen them, the terms of the CARES Act — the massive spending program approved by Congress at the onset of the pandemic in March — potentially limit the secretary’s authority to send more funds to cover losses from Fed loans after the end of the year.”