Support is building among Republicans for reopening the economy sooner rather than later, but not all GOP lawmakers are on the same page.
Some conservatives are pushing more aggressive timelines while some moderates adopting a more cautious approach.
Republicans are wrestling with the looming threat of a second wave of coronavirus infections and the more immediate reality of rising unemployment, with 4.4 million more Americans applying for jobless benefits last week.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus culture war over reopening economy hits Capitol Hill Overnight Health Care: Fauci says US needs to ‘significantly ramp up’ testing | Nearly 3 million New Yorkers may have virus antibodies | Trump escalates WHO fight What you need to know today on the coronavirus: House passes huge funding bill MORE (R-Ky.), Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy NSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general MORE (R-Pa.) and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMcConnell sparks bipartisan backlash with state bankruptcy remarks Trump seizes on economic crisis to push green card ban Trump immigration vow stirs serious blowback MORE (R-Texas) are leading the push for state economies to open quickly so that businesses can resume operations and furloughed workers can get off unemployment.
Those senators, however, aren’t aligning themselves with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and his abrupt decision to reopen gyms, hair and nail salons, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors and massage parlors starting Friday.
Trump on Wednesday said he told Kemp that he “strongly” disagreed with the governor’s timeline. The president went after the governor again at Thursday’s White House press briefing.
“I’m not happy about it, and I’m not happy about Brian Kemp,” Trump said, noting that Kemp’s decision is in violation of federal guidelines. “I told him that. I said, ‘You’re not in the guidelines but I’m letting you make your own decision. I don’t want this thing to flair up because you’re deciding to do something that is not in the guidelines.’”
Georgia had reported more than 21,000 cases of coronavirus and 871 deaths as of Thursday.
Meanwhile, GOP moderates such as Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderUnion leader asks Pelosi, Schumer to spike ‘surprise’ billing legislation McConnell: Governors should begin reopening states House prepares to vote on coronavirus aid package as soon as Wednesday MORE (Tenn.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocratic group reserves million in TV ads against McConnell The partisan divide on crisis aid Democrats gain new momentum in fight for Senate majority MORE (Maine) are urging caution and for policymakers to pay close attention to the recommendations of public health experts, who are more focused on preventing a second wave of infections than getting the economy back on track.
Alexander, who isn’t seeking reelection, says people shouldn’t go back to work until health experts have a better sense of who’s infected and who needs to be quarantined.
“I don’t think Tennesseans and Americans want to go back to work, back to school, unless we know whether we have the virus or the people who have it have been isolated. I’m focused on a new technology to produce tens of millions of diagnostic tests that’ll be ready this summer,” Alexander told News 4 Nashville this week.
He said new testing and treatments are needed, and the process for reopening the economy needs to be methodical.
Alexander said he supports Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s (R) decision to allow a “Safer at Home” order expire at the end of the month but he says it’s too soon to allow kids to return to school without more testing.
“So for phase one, we have enough tests for people who are sick. But for going back to school, I don’t think we do, and we’re going to need a new technology to do it,” he said Wednesday on Fox Business.
Collins, who is one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection this year, said Maine doesn’t have enough resources to conduct the testing she thinks is necessary to reopen the state economy.
“Widespread testing will be essential for helping medical professionals determine when it is safe to reopen the economy and for giving people the confidence to go back to school, sporting events, and other public forums,” Collins said in a statement Wednesday.
She added that increased testing should be a “joint effort,” with the federal government playing “the leading role.”
“States like Maine simply lack the resources to conduct the necessary number of tests on their own. We need to act now to scale up production,” she said.
Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney, Sinema request CDC develop real-time reporting method: US is ‘behind the curve’ Throw the GOP’s Benghazi playbook at Trump’s catastrophic coronavirus response Trump says exclusion of Romney from task force shows he’s still holding a grudge MORE (Utah), another leading GOP moderate, has been in touch with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) and other state and local officials but has let them handle the decision-making process.
Some Republicans, such as Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyMcConnell sparks bipartisan backlash with state bankruptcy remarks State governments face financial abyss with coronavirus Principles for the coming federal education bailout MORE (La.), a doctor, agree there needs to be a dramatic increase in testing before state economies are reopened. He is proposing hundreds of billions of dollars in additional federal aid to states to cushion the economic blow of keeping businesses closed.
Cassidy has expressed concern about “the financial health” of the country, which he said is getting “pummeled.”
But he is leery of reopening the economy along the guidelines unveiled last week by the Trump administration without increased testing.
“I would like to have, in conjunction with this, though, widespread testing and knowing who is positive, who’s not. If you are at risk and you’re not immune, then by golly you better take real strong precautions. If you are immune and you are no increased particular risk, you have a lot more freedom,” he said on “Full Court Press” with Greta Van Susteren.
A spokesperson for Cassidy said the Louisiana senator “believes in a more targeted approach” than what Kemp is advocating in Georgia, adding that Cassidy thinks “different states will have different approaches.”
“If the CDC were using the testing and contact tracing he is calling for, then it could analyze not just states, but cities or even neighborhoods to evaluate the risk of an outbreak in specific areas,” the aide added.
Cassidy is also pushing a bipartisan plan to set up a $500 billion fund for hard-hit states, a plan he pitched during a Thursday conference call with colleagues.
Other Senate Republicans, however, are not fond of sending more money to cash-strapped state and local governments, especially New York, the home state of Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerPeople over politics on PPP funding Schumer says he’s focused on job when asked about possible Ocasio-Cortez primary challenge Treasury secretary, Democratic leaders ‘hopeful’ for agreement on coronavirus package MORE.
McConnell on Wednesday said he would be in favor of allowing some states to declare bankruptcy if they face irrecoverable fiscal shortfalls. That comment drew bipartisan backlash, particularly from Republicans like Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
Senate GOP aides acknowledge there are conflicting views within the GOP conference over how to proceed.
“Everybody will have their own position. Everyone will be reliant on what their state does. We will trust governors to make decisions that are based on whatever their needs are,” said a Senate GOP aide after Republican senators held a conference call Thursday.
“I think that most Republicans would like the economy to be open sooner rather than later. But we’re not going to come out with a unified Republican plan,” said the aide.
Many Senate Republicans are pushing for their states to start loosening restrictions on businesses immediately.
Toomey, who last week called the economic lockdown “draconian,” released a plan Thursday calling for two-thirds of Pennsylvania to resume some economic activities.
He argued that many hospitals, especially in central and western Pennsylvania are at low capacity.
He has introduced a three-phase plan to reopen Pennsylvania, which has had more than 37,000 coronavirus cases.
Phase one would allow businesses to open if they can adopt social distancing and hygiene protocols and if they’re located in counties with declining or limited coronavirus cases.
The second phase would allow higher-trafficked establishments such as restaurants, bars and gyms to open with proper social distancing and hygiene protocols and allow schools to resume under the supervision of state and school districts.
The final phase would relax restrictions on restaurants, bars and gyms and allow entertainment venues like theaters and concert halls to begin reopening. The third phase would depend on increased testing capacity and the development of effective therapies.
Other Republicans, however, have voiced support for a more aggressive timeline.
McConnell said he is urging Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) to begin allowing businesses to reopen.
“The ultimate solution to this is to get the economy back up and running. I’m encouraging our governor, for example, and he’s already doing it, to begin to make steps in the direction of opening up the economy,” the GOP leader told Fox News.
Cruz has been at the forefront of calling for workers to be allowed to return to their jobs.
“If we continue shelter-in-place, that’s going to be devastating for the economy,” Cruz told the Temple Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. “For young healthy people, it makes sense to go back to work.”
The Texas conservative said the health quarantines have accomplished their goal in making “meaningful progress in flattening the curve and slowing the rate of transmission.”
Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordGOP senator warns Trump against sidelining watchdogs GOP senators press Trump to cooperate with watchdogs following shake-up Former Sen. Tom Coburn dies at 72 MORE (R-Okla.) has echoed the argument that social-distancing and quarantine guidelines have kept the virus in check enough to allow businesses to start reopening.
“What we’ve talked about all along, flattening the curve and limiting the spread — that has occurred. We’ve significantly flattened the curve in Oklahoma and several other states,” he told Fox 25 in Oklahoma City.
Unemployment rate hits new record even as economy adds jobs – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, June 5, 2020 5:18AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 5, 2020 3:25PM EDT
OTTAWA – Canada’s employment minister says the federal government is rethinking a key COVID-19 benefit so workers have more incentive to get back on the job, in an effort to maintain a surprising boost in job numbers from May.
Statistics Canada reported that the country got back 289,600 jobs in May – which mirrored a similar bump in the U.S. – after three million jobs were lost over March and April and about 2.5 million more people had their hours slashed.
Provincially, Quebec led the way, gaining 231,000 jobs as it became one of the first provinces to ease restrictions, doing so just before Statistics Canada collected data the week of May 10. Ontario was the only province with losses, albeit at a slower pace than in March and April.
Combined with more people reporting getting regular hours, the agency said Canada had recovered only 10.6 per cent of employment losses and absences related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Friday’s jobs report showed the unemployment rate in May rose to 13.7 per cent, the highest level in more than four decades of comparable data. But that’s because more people started looking for work – meaning the rate shouldn’t be taken as a sign of underlying weakness, said CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes.
The unemployment rate is a measure of the people looking for work who can’t find it, meaning it can actually decline if job-seekers give up, or increase as formerly discouraged seekers see new signs of hope.
Still, the monthly labour force survey showed that men gained back more jobs than women, resulting in a wider gender gap in employment losses as a result of COVID-19, and that the pandemic continued to disproportionately affect lower-wage workers.
To keep gains going, business and labour groups called for a revamp of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the employment insurance system.
The first cohort of recipients of the $500-a-week payment will max out their 16 weeks of benefits in early July. Some may qualify for employment insurance, while others may not have any work available, meaning significant drops in income that could hamper the path to recovery, said TD senior economist Brian DePratto.
The Canadian Labour Congress and Canadian Chamber of Commerce separately called for reforms to the decades-old EI system, which the Liberals determined early on in the crisis couldn’t handle the influx of jobless claims.
Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough suggested all ideas are on the table when it comes to EI, and the future of the CERB.
“As we look into the months coming … we’ve got a different goal in mind: People need to get back to work safely,” she said at a midday press conference.
“So our thinking moving forward is how do we balance a need to continue to support workers, while not disincentivizing work?”
The most recent federal figures show 8.37 million people applied for the CERB, with $43.18 billion in payments as of June 2. Qualtrough said 1.2 million recipients no longer require it, although it wasn’t immediately clear why.
The Canada Revenue Agency also said this week that almost 190,000 payments of wrongfully received benefits had been made as of June 3.
Economists had been watching the CERB numbers as a proxy for Friday’s jobs report, which set up expectations for another round of job losses.
CERB figures will continued to be watched to track possible job losses and compare it to areas where there are signs of progress, said Brendon Bernard, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab.
“The strength of this rebound is going to depend to a significant degree on what happens with layoffs,” he said in an interview. “We could see some areas of the economy bounce-back as shuttered sectors reopen, but if layoffs continue, then it’s going to be tough for net job gains to be particularly strong.”
The total number of unemployed Canadians doubled from February to April, a surge driven by temporary layoffs that the vast majority of workers expected to last less than six months.
At the same time, there was a spike in the number of people who wanted to work but weren’t actively looking for jobs, likely because the economic shutdown has limited job opportunities. People not actively seeking work aren’t counted in unemployment figures.
The unemployment rate for May would have been 19.6 per cent had the report counted among the unemployed those who stopped looking for work – largely unchanged since April.
Statistics Canada said lower-wage workers recovered just over one-10th of the losses they experienced in March and April. But they continued to be a higher share of people working less than half of their usual hours.
Lower-wage workers were among the first- and hardest-hit during the shutdown, largely because they worked in industries like retail, restaurants and hotels that closed early in the pandemic.
Besides seeing less improvement generally compared with men, women with children under age six saw slower job gains than those with older children.
Rebounds were also weak for students and recent immigrants.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020.
Saskatchewan says economy is rebounding despite 12.5% unemployment rate – Globalnews.ca
The Saskatchewan government is feeling confident its economy is on the rebound.
By the end of April, the unemployment rate in the province was 11.3 per cent. Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate is, however, the second-lowest among provinces and below the national average of 13.7 per cent.
“The Saskatchewan workforce is still being seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic but there are a number of signs that show Saskatchewan’s economy is both recovering faster, and was less impacted, than other provinces,” said Jeremy Harrison, immigration and career training minister, in a statement.
“We have the second-lowest unemployment rate in Canada and the number of people working rose in May, which is a strong, positive sign in the COVID-19 era. The Saskatchewan economy is positioned to strongly improve as we move forward with the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan.”
In Saskatchewan, there were 600 more jobs in May than April, while 87 per cent of those working in February were working in May.
Since February, the number of hours worked in the province has dropped by 9.1 per cent. It’s the second-lowest decline in provinces. Nationally, the average decline in the number of hours worked over that same period is 19.3 per cent.
Coronavirus outbreak: All options on the table for benefits to help those impacted by COVID-19
“Looking forward, we are seeing positive economic news in Saskatchewan, including announcements about helium and lithium recently,” Harrison said.
“These new investments will bring jobs and investment to communities across the province and will help lift our economy out of the current challenges facing markets globally.”
The province said businesses in Saskatchewan are faring better than other jurisdictions, claiming to have closed fewer than other provinces did.
“This speaks to the strength of Saskatchewan’s economy and a strong reopening plan aiding in economic recovery,” the province said in a release issued on Friday.
Despite the optimism from the provincial government, the Saskatchewan NDP has laid out three actions it believes the province should take right now to strengthen the economy going forward.
First, to put Saskatchewan businesses and workers first through a Sask-first procurement plan that helps keep jobs in the province. Secondly, make the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency program more accessible.
Saskatchewan tops up economic stimulus package by $2 billion
Finally, to end the six-month lockout between Regina’s Co-op Refinery and its workers, which would put 800 Saskatchewan people back to work.
“New Democrats have urged Premier Moe and this Sask. Party government to protect jobs and small businesses, but clearly not enough has been done,” Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said.
“We know that Saskatchewan’s economy was already shrinking before COVID – and now the Premier’s lack of action to put Saskatchewan workers and businesses first is making things worse.”
Saskatchewan continues its reopen plan with Phase 3 beginning on June 8.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Uncertainty abounds as Nova Scotia economy reopens – TheChronicleHerald.ca
Premier Stephen McNeil is encouraging people to “think local, support local” as the province’s economy reopens Friday but the future of many small businesses struggling to meet government public health guidelines remain uncertain.
“Businesses will require our support on a go-forward basis,” said McNeil Thursday, before facing criticism from opposition leaders for what they deemed a poorly orchestrated and communicated reopening plan that has left businesses scrambling to reopen.
“There should be a massive information exercise by the Province of Nova Scotia that gives Nova Scotians confidence in the system that’s in play,” said Tory Leader Tim Houston.
Government announced its plan to reopen sectors of the economy, including restaurants and bars, salons and gyms last week. The premier has faced ongoing criticism for not offering clear direction on what specific public health requirements, including equipment, businesses need to meet in order to reopen.
“The lack of information over the last few weeks and couple of months has really put businesses at a disadvantage,” said Houston. “I’m hearing from lots that are having difficulty getting supplies that they think they need for disinfecting. There’s a whole host of businesses that still don’t know what they’re required to do and what their customers are required to do.”
The province is offering a $25-million grant program that offers up to $5,000 for small business, non-profits and other operations, including dental offices. The program is intended to help those groups with the costs of buying equipment and cleaning supplies needed to reopen.
Sectors, including barber shops and hair salons, are frustrated over the limit of 10 occupants permitted in their businesses. Restaurants will essentially be reduced to half capacity. Many businesses are unable to secure protective equipment and cleaning supplies in time to reopen.
Meanwhile, many small businesses are still pleading for rent relief. The federal Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program, offering to cover 75 per cent of rent for small businesses, has had limited uptake largely because it’s optional for landlords.
Business Minister Geoff MacLellan admitted that businesses would require added financial assistance at least through the initial months of the reopening. He said that’s especially true given that tourism numbers are predicted to drop dramatically this summer, a primary source of for many businesses reopening.
“I think that’s inevitable, to be honest,” said MacLellan.
His department is working directly with associations representing businesses working to get their reopening plans approved by public health and government.
“We’ll open up and see how things go the first few days,” said MacLellan. “I’m absolutely certain we’ll hear back from those associations.”
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