Washington can’t agree on how to extend the support Michigan families are counting on as enhancements to unemployment expire.
DETROIT, MI — DeMarco Wright felt his life was smooth just months ago. He works at the Marriott in downtown Detroit, supporting his family of four.
Then came the coronavirus.
The hospitality industry has been far and away the hardest hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association. It calls the injury the industry has suffered “historic.”
The resulting collapse in his industry left Wright really needing the kinds of financial support that were extended to American families during the pandemic. There was a problem with the direct cash stimulus though: massive disorganization from the Trump administration.
“It was so unorganized, by the grace of God I got it,” Wright told The ’Gander. “The person who did my taxes? It went to them. I had to contact her and she wired it to me.”
Wright isn’t sure who he’s voting for in November, but he thinks more needs to be done for struggling families, especially compared to the country across the river.
That has him strongly considering Biden for president.
How Michigan’s Neighbors Are Taking Care of Coronavirus Relief
Governments around the world have quickly found ways to help its citizens through the coronavirus crisis.
Struggling Canadians were quickly made eligible to receive $2,000 Canadian per month for four months, compared to Americans who got only $1,200 one time, if they got it at all. Canadians received around $1,500 U.S. dollars each check.
The Wall Street Journal compared the American and Canadian stimulus response in detail, showing just how much farther Canada went for its citizens.
As Wright’s family demonstrated, not all Americans were quite so fortunate. Adding to the complications, additional financial support for unemployed Michiganders expires after the next unemployment check.
That leaves entrepreneurs like Katie Carls in a difficult situation.
Carls is a single mother who runs the Marvelous Maids business in Whitehall, Michigan. She also helps her father’s small business, which sells refrigerated trailers. Both those industries have been hampered by the pandemic.
“This is the first time in my life I have ever received unemployment benefits,” she told The ’Gander, “I have no prospects of our business returning to normal anytime soon, at all.”
This week, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden outlined his goals for a more successful stimulus for American families, specifically targeting people just like Wright and Carls — working families and small business owners.
“People are looking to Congress for the support they need to keep their heads above water,” he said.
What Relief Looks Like to Vice President Joe Biden
Biden urged Congress to reject any proposal to cut taxes for wealthy Americans, and to ensure aid dollars go to middle- and lower-class Americans and small businesses. And he says that Congress should mandate that any loans provided in the next package include a commitment that businesses use the funds to hire or protect American workers.
The Biden plan to reform unemployment insurance views it instead as “employment insurance” and would encourage participation in workshare programs, which, as The ’Gander reported, are useful but underutilized programs to keep workers employed despite reduced hours. Biden also wants these programs to kick in automatically during times of crisis in the future.
Biden would also establish a fund for emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic that would allow governors to authorize targeted direct cash programs like those seen in Canada during future, localized crises.
In the more immediate term, Biden has called on Congress to extend the emergency unemployment enhancements that Carls is counting on that are set to expire at the end of the month.
President Donald Trump has been reluctant to reauthorize that enhancement to unemployment support.
The Current State of Coronavirus Relief
Congress and the White House agree that more relief is needed. What they don’t agree on is essentially everything else, reports the Washington Post.
One area where there is some agreement is sending another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, but even that is threatened by Trump’s insistence on a payroll tax cut. Congress, including Congressional Republicans, have been skeptical of such a tax cut having an actual benefit in the current crisis, as it would only benefit those currently employed and would draw its funding from Social Security and Medicare.
Trump has said he will not sign any relief bill without a payroll tax cut.
“This man simply doesn’t understand,” Biden said in a Delaware speech Tuesday. “But this election is not just about him. It’s about us. It’s about you. It’s about what we’ll do, what a president’s supposed to do. A president’s supposed to care, to lead, to take responsibility, to never give up.”
Additionally, while there is some support across the aisle for continued enhanced unemployment funding, the question of how much is hotly contested. Republicans want the current $600 per week to be reduced to $400 or even $200 per week as an effort to taper off the existing emergency assistance. Democrats point to a staggering economy and the resurgence of the virus slowing reopening of businesses as evidence the $600 is still needed.
While the White House has opposed the enhancements to unemployment, it did recently signal it would be open to a compromise, but again only if the bill were to be signed into law, and for that Trump would need his payroll tax cut.
“For all his bluster about his expertise on the economy, he’s unable to explain how he’ll actually help working families hit the hardest,” Biden said in Delaware. “He’s quit on you. He’s quit on this country.”
The ’Gander’s Ellen Chamberlain and the Associated Press contributed to this report.