Federal Updates on COVID-19 Relief, the Paycheck Protection Program, and CBO releases projections on economic growth
While leaders in the nation’s capital debate COVID-19 relief proposals and the impeachment of former President Donald Trump is underway, the Washington Post reported that a group of top U.S. CEOs met with President Joe Biden to discuss the administration’s COVID-19 economic relief package. Top concerns the business leaders were expected to discuss include the President’s $15 minimum wage proposal and federal unemployment insurance increases.
The meeting came after a group of U.S. Senators, led by Sen. Susan Collins, met with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on February 1 to promote a $618 billion alternative to the White House’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus relief plan.
Just hours before the February 1 Oval Office meeting, Sen. Collins spoke with Maine State Chamber president Dana Connors on The Maine Take with Dana Connors. Collins indicated there are areas where compromise may be possible, adding that the President’s proposal, “… has a lot of extraneous issues in it, like the minimum wage and green energy. Those are worthy of consideration, but they simply do not belong in the COVID emergency funding package.” Collins shared with Connors the urgent need for help for struggling families, small businesses, and health care providers, as well as boosting COVID-19 testing and vaccines, pointing out that billions of dollars from previous relief packages have not yet been spent.
On February 8 on The Maine Take with Dana Connors, Sen. Angus King shared with Connors that he supports President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus proposal, citing places where it could be modified and improved including targeted stimulus payments. King indicated that while he believes the Republican proposal is insufficient, there are opportunities for bipartisan input, adding that, “$1.9 trillion is a lot of money,” and it is “important get us out of this hole but not do something that could aggravate the hole for future generations.” King shared that a stimulus package will likely be resolved by the end of February or early March.
Paycheck Protection Program…
U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a co-author of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), announced on February 10 that 6,116 Maine small employers have been approved for a total of $462,638,344 in forgivable PPP loans since the PPP reopened last month, according to the latest data from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Information for first-time PPP applicants, those who previously received a loan, and other SBA relief programs can be found at www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program.
An Associated Press story published in the Bangor Daily News on February 1 reported that “The Congressional Budget Office expects the U.S. economy will grow at a 4.6 percent annual rate this year, but with employment not returning to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. The 10-year outlook issued Monday said the economic recovery from the coronavirus has been boosted by an unprecedented wave of government spending to combat the outbreak, such that growth could pass its maximum sustainable level in early 2025 before returning to a long-run average of 1.7 percent. Based on the CBO’s projections, economic growth would be the strongest since 1999.”
The Press Herald published a Washington Post article on the CBO report indicating, “The nation’s unemployment rate will not return to its pre-pandemic levels through the rest of this decade, meaning millions of workers could be out of work even after the vaccine is widely distributed.”
According to a CQ-Roll Call article published in the Bangor Daily News, the CBO projects that “Legislation that would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour over five years would increase deficits by $54 billion over the next decade.” CBO projections also indicate a $15 minimum wage would cost 1.4 million U.S. jobs.
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