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Fifteen hundred people died of the coronavirus yesterday, that is the most in a single day since the middle of May. Actually, for the past 17 days in a row, more than a thousand people have died every day.
And still, why can't you go across the aisle and say, Representative Lewis, civil rights legend, would have loved it if we could do something for the totally disenfranchised in this country no matter what?
Republicans and Democrats in Congress have not made a deal on how to get money to people after extra federal unemployment benefits expired two weeks ago.
This exchange on CNBC last week with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pretty much sums up the tone right now.
Host Jim Cramer asked her, why can't her party, the Democrats work with Republicans to get help to people who need it the most, to minorities who want so badly to stay in business and can add to people who were trying to go to college or have student loans, who are minorities, who are the most affected because they had the least chance in our country. That's got to be something both sides can agree to. Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gives a damn for what you just described.
Well, that's the problem.
Now it looks like there might not be a deal anytime soon. Today, the Senate adjourned until September 8th. Coming up, how Congress got so stuck and why the president's plan might not help much either. This is considered this from NPR. I'm Kelly McEvers. It is Thursday, August 13th.
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Support for this podcast and the following message come from Babul If learning a language is on your to do list, Babbo makes it fun and easy to start. Right now, Babul is offering listeners three months free with the purchase of a three month subscription at Batbold Dotcom promo code. Consider. So Republicans and Democrats don't just disagree about how much extra federal unemployment money people should get every week going forward. It used to be 600 bucks.
They also disagree about whether other government programs should get money at all, for example, for children in America.
There are millions of food insecure children in America. Just go back to Nancy Pelosi. She's been arguing for a Democratic plan that would put more than 60 billion dollars toward food programs.
The Republicans and their plan have two hundred and forty thousand dollars. Not million, not billion. Two hundred and forty thousand dollars.
Well, obviously, there is some limit to what we can borrow when we're not at it now. And the president is determined to spend what we need to spend.
That's Treasury Secretary Steve Manoogian, who has been leading negotiations for the White House. When he says a limit to what we can borrow, he means a limit to government spending.
And he said this week, sure, Republicans aren't opposed to spending in general on things where we agree, but where we're apart on money, we split the difference, things like food.
I listen to the speaker over the weekend. She's right. We started low on food. We realize there's a lot of kids out there that there's an issue. So we agreed on more than enough money for this year and through most of next year on food.
Kids need food right now. Getting the two sides to agree on that is progress.
But what we're not going to do is where there's really bad policy ideas.
We're not going to just split the difference.
So what are those really bad ideas they're asking for 25 billion for the post office so they can do this, I guess, and other things that President Trump made a point in a press briefing on Wednesday that he believes money that would go to the Postal Service in a year when more states than ever before will let people vote by mail, has nothing to do with the coronavirus and should not be in any aid package, has nothing at all to do with China.
There is much of what they're asking for. So therefore, they don't have the money to do the universal mail in voting.
It's not clear what Trump means by universal mail in voting. States control voting and some states already do it completely by mail. Trump went even further on Fox Business Thursday morning, admitting he plans to block federal funding to the Postal Service to prevent more voting by mail. They want twenty five billion dollars billion for the post office. Now they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.
The Postal Service, it is true, is not in great financial shape. But postal representatives have said repeatedly they are ready for whatever happens and they will still deliver all the mail in November.
It's very simple. How are they going to do it if they don't have the money to do it? The Democrats are also holding up money for schools and hospitals and small businesses.
So when you add up the Democratic proposals, food programs, money for unemployment, money for schools and local governments, it's about three trillion dollars. Republicans want something closer to one trillion.
And with the two sides that far apart, the president announced his own plan last week a handful of executive orders that might not be entirely workable or even helpful for Americans who've been out of work for months. One of his orders would give Americans something Trump has described as a payroll tax cut.
But as NPR's Scott Horsley reports, it's not really a cut at all.
President Trump ordered the Treasury Department to stop collecting the six point two percent payroll tax from workers making up to about 100000 dollars a year. The order is supposed to take effect next month.
This will mean bigger paychecks for working families as we raise to produce a vaccine. So far, though, the president's move has sparked a lot of confusion.
Critics say this particular relief is misguided because it benefits only people who are lucky enough to still have a job. And while the president has the legal authority to delay tax collection, that relief is only temporary. Maya MacGuineas, who heads the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, says as it stands, workers will have to repay the taxes next year.
So what good does that do people if they just get a temporary payroll tax cut and have to put that somewhere to save it to repay the money in a balloon payment a couple months from now, that's really done very little to improve the economy.
Trump insist his goal, if he's re-elected, is to cut payroll taxes for good.
If I'm victorious on November 3rd, I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax. I'm going to make them more permanent.
But only Congress has the power to permanently cut taxes, and there's no guarantee lawmakers will go along with Trump's wishes. If they did, MacGuineas says, that would deal a severe blow to Social Security, which the payroll taxes pay for.
Social Security is already facing immense pressures in terms of the finances. Getting rid of the revenue source that funds the program would make the finances of it much, much worse.
The payroll tax suspension seemed to have little support outside the White House and a small circle of presidential advisers. It never gained much traction in Congress, and the Chamber of Commerce said it's not something the business community was clamoring for. So who did want this?
The people who love the payroll tax cut are the American people. That's conservative pundit Stephen Moore, an adviser to Trump's campaign who was briefly floated as a nominee for the Federal Reserve Board. Moore, who co-founded the anti-tax Club for Growth, has been one of the most dogged advocates for payroll tax relief.
Virtually all Americans who are working are going to get a nice boost in their paycheck, so that puts money in the economy and incentivized people to work. And I think that's a very positive fact.
Saturday surprise announcement has employers scrambling. Iceberg, who's a vice president with the payroll processing firm ADP, says companies need guidance from the IRS on exactly who's eligible to have their taxes suspended and how to keep track so those taxes can eventually be repaid.
It's going to be a mixed bag of employers, some of which will be able to do this on September 1st. Some will be able to do it in October or November, and somebody just never do it.
Iceberg says employers also want some reassurance that they won't be on the hook for workers unpaid taxes if Congress doesn't forgive the bill. Employers also have to figure out how to explain to their workers why take home pay is temporarily going up in September and why they might want to be careful about what they do with the extra money.
NPR's Scott Horsley. Santos is a single mother with three kids. She lives in the Bronx. I don't know what's going to happen. And if they're going to kick me out of my apartment and that's something hard, you know, you can hardly even sleep sometimes before the pandemic hit.
Santos had been out of work for a few months. Then in early March, she finally got a job at a shoe store, thought things were looking up. But after only two weeks, the store shut down and now she owes nearly five thousand dollars in rent on her one bedroom apartment. I got a letter.
Today is for the month of May, June, July and August, which is forty nine. Sixty nine with sixty four cents. That's the one, two, three, four months of rent.
President Trump signed another executive order that he said would protect people from eviction, something that's supposed to help people like Santos, but in reality, his order simply said that federal policy is to minimize evictions during the pandemic and that officials should find ways using existing laws and regulations to help homeowners and renters.
The other piece of pandemic aid we haven't talked about a lot is federal unemployment, that six hundred dollars a week and extra money that expired at the end of July. Trump's executive order to deal with that problem would lower the amount to 400 dollars a week.
NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith talked about why and how his plan would work if it does work with my colleague Lulu Garcia-Navarro. All right. So let's start with those enhanced unemployment benefits being extended. I mean, a lot of people are relying on this. Where is the money coming from?
Yeah, so the president doesn't have the power to just extend the 600 dollar a week enhanced benefit that expired at the end of last month. Also, he thinks 600 dollars is too much. So with this memorandum, he's trying to shoehorn the payments in as disaster relief. He is directing FEMA to use funds set aside for hurricanes and other disaster relief that would cover about 300 dollars a week.
That seems a little problematic considering that it is hurricane season.
But continue. Yes, though Congress did set aside an extra 45 billion dollars for that disaster relief fund in one of its earlier coronavirus relief packages. But there's a catch here.
In order for someone who is out of work to get this money, each individual state will have to request it and they'll have to put an additional 100 dollars a week in so that people would get 400 a week. They'd also have to administer the program. And states have their own very serious fiscal problems brought on by the pandemic. They are begging Congress and the president to help with that.
And this is just a stopgap given the current number of Americans unemployed.
Those FEMA disaster funds would only last about five weeks.
This is not a substitute for legislation. It's really just moving money from one pot to another.
So what does this all mean for Americans who are struggling and wondering when their next relief payment might come?
They should keep an eye on Congress, these executive actions are in some ways a lot less than meets the eye. The president is not able to put a moratorium on evictions.
He's directing agency heads to look into ways to help people avoid eviction. The payroll tax holiday would have a balloon payment at the end. Potentially, the unemployment insurance is not truly an extension and could have a lot of problems. Plus, there are so many things that are not addressed by this, like funding needed to reopen schools safely or fund local governments who are in the red because the pandemic has cut state revenues so badly.
You've mentioned that this really may not have the effect that people hope. Is it legal, though?
And what has been the reaction so the president can try to do these things? Experts I've spoken to say that there will certainly be legal challenges, but the White House can make a case that he can do this, but he can't actually do what he said he did. He's he's doing sort of less than the reaction has been that Republicans don't love it, but they're saying that he was sort of forced to do it. That was the message from Mitch McConnell.
And Democrats were, as you might expect, not thrilled either. They characterized it as a Band-Aid at best and at worst, illegal or unconstitutional.
NPR's Tamara Keith talking to my colleague, Lulu Garcia-Navarro. By the way, that new federal unemployment money, it's not clear when Americans could get it. The White House has said weeks. Experts say it could take much longer.
Additional reporting in this episode from our colleagues at All Things Considered and from NPR's Jim Zarroli. For more news, download the NPR one app or listen to your local public radio station. Supporting that station makes this podcast possible. I'm Kelly McEvers. We will be back with more tomorrow.
Black voters play a crucial role for any Democrat who seeks to win the White House. But some big divides amongst that bloc and some serious ambivalence could determine who is elected president this November. Listen now on the Cosulich podcast from NPR.