- Sen. Bernie Sanders and three other Democrats unveiled a bill that would cover up to $US90,000 in wages and health insurance benefits for workers.
- The program would expire at the end of the year.
- More lawmakers, notably Democrats, are pushing for the government to cover the salaries of workers in order to prevent further damage to the economy from mass layoffs.
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Sen. Bernie Sanders and three other Democrats introduced legislation on Thursday for the government to cover employee payrolls and their benefits as well as the fixed expenses of businesses like rent, mortgage and utilities.
Under the plan from Sanders – along with Sens. Mark Warner, Doug Jones and Richard Blumenthal – the government would cover up to $US90,000 in wages and health insurance for workers.
“This unprecedented crisis demands an unprecedented legislative response,” Sanders said in a press release. “We cannot continue to allow tens of millions of Americans to lose their jobs, income, and health insurance during this horrific pandemic.”
He continued: “In order to avoid another Great Depression, Congress must act boldly and aggressively to ensure that every American worker receives their paycheck and health insurance until this crisis is over.”
Employers would also be eligible for refundable credits to cover fixed costs. The entire program would expire in December 31, 2020.
The introduction of the plan reflects a growing drive in Congress, particularly among Democrats, to place the government in a more forceful role to mitigate the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 39 million Americans have filed for unemployment over the last nine weeks.
In the House, Rep. Pramila Jayapal rolled out her own plan, which would also cover benefits and wages for workers for up to six months. It was left out of the $US3 trillion spending package that Democrats passed in the House.
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Several Republicans back the idea as well. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri unveiled his own plan last month to cover 80% of businesses’ payroll costs up to the median wage, or around $US50,000 per year. Still, most conservatives have have fiercely swung back at the idea of guaranteeing income, The Hill reported.
Economists expect a significant amount of small and mid-sized businesses to shutter permanently, despite efforts by the government to provide broad assistance to them.
The Paycheck Protection Program was enacted to provide loans to companies employing fewer than 500 employees that would be forgiven if they kept workers on payrolls, but it hasn’t been enough to prop up many businesses.
A survey of 5,800 small business owners published last month found that 47% were expecting to close permanently if the crisis stretched on longer than four months.
In Europe, several nations like the United Kingdom and Denmark have implemented similar plans to cover workers’ wages in a bid to prevent mass unemployment.
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