As the additional $600 a week granted by the CARES Act expires, Senator Wyden points to extra financial help for businesses.
On July 27, Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced $25 million in Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants will be distributed among 13 business grantmaking organizations across the state, including the Oregon Business Development Department, the Portland Development Commission and the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District.
The money, allocated from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, means the state's business communities will receive added economic assistance, potentially softening the economic blow from the pandemic.
“We will be making new loans with an introductory period of zero percent interest and deferred payments possible through April of 2021,” said Lisa Dawson, executive director of the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District, in a prepared statement.
“Our hope is that businesses will be able to capitalize on new opportunities or pivot their business models to become more profitable and resilient in the current economic and pandemic environment.”
The business relief came at the same time the unemployed received disappointing news. On July 31, Congress failed to approve a continuation of additional $600 a week for workers receiving unemployment benefits.
Senator Wyden, who spearheaded the now-expired “supercharged” unemployment benefits, gave a Zoom press conference on Friday, in which he laid the blame of not renewing the benefits on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Mitch McConnell and the U.S. Senate failed to act and now millions of working Americans are going to be without federal unemployment payments,” says the president of labor union AFL-CIO Graham Trainor. “This is just the latest misstep in a disastrous response to the worst public health crisis our nation has faced.”
The Republican counteroffer, a $1 trillion relief package called the HEALS Act, which was rejected by House Democrats, would have reduced the added unemployment benefits to $200 a week until October 5.
It then would have adopted a system in which benefits would replace up to 70% of an individual's expected income, up to a maximum of $500.
The plan would have also created additional paperwork, as well as making the benefits count against an individual’s eligibility for federal assistance programs such as Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Not one to mince words, Wyden described the Senate Republicans' coronavirus relief plan as a “textbook case of indifference to human suffering.” He echoed Gov. Kate Brown’s opposition to the Republicans’ proposal, saying that while the reduction in pay is significant, the new filing requirements would mean added complexity for those navigating unemployment, and that fewer people would be able to secure benefits as a result.
Senate Republicans have stated on numerous occasions their goal with the reduced benefits is to prevent increasing the national debt, which just this month topped $26 trillion.
Labor unions joined in the criticism. “Mitch McConnell and the U.S. Senate failed to act and now millions of working Americans are going to be without federal unemployment payments,” says the president of labor union AFL-CIO Graham Trainor. “This is just the latest misstep in a disastrous response to the worst public health crisis our nation has faced.”
Wyden remains optimistic Senate Republicans will see the value of extending the benefits without creating additional hoops.
During the Zoom conference, Wyden said that every day he hears more of his Republican colleagues saying they do not agree with the majority leader. No bipartisan conversations are being held on the subject of renewed unemployment benefits, he added.
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