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    Gov. Phil Murphy Unveils N.J. Budget Plan With No New Taxes

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesRisk Near YouVaccine RolloutNew Variants TrackerAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyHow New Jersey Averted a Pandemic Financial CalamityA $44.8 billion spending plan unveiled Tuesday by Gov. Phil Murphy calls for no new taxes and fully funds the state pension program for the first time since 1996.Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey released a $44.8 billion budget on Tuesday that shows better-than-expected revenue projections.Credit…Pool photo by Anne-Marie CarusoFeb. 23, 2021Updated 3:07 p.m. ETIt has been five months since New Jersey officials issued warnings about a coronavirus-related financial calamity. The dire outlook contributed to lawmakers’ decisions to increase taxes on income over $1 million and to become one of the first states to borrow billions to cover operating costs.But the doomsday forecast has since brightened considerably, officials said, enabling the Democratic governor, Philip D. Murphy, to unveil a $44.8 billion spending plan on Tuesday that calls for no new taxes, few cuts and tackles head-on a chronic problem — the state’s underfunded pension program — for the first time in 25 years.The governor also said there would be no increase in New Jersey Transit fares.“The news is less bad,” the state’s treasurer, Elizabeth Maher Muoio, said. “I wouldn’t say it’s good, but it’s less bad.”The governor’s election-year financial blueprint relies on better-than-expected revenue from retail sales and high-earners, who have lost fewer jobs during the pandemic than low-income workers and are reaping the benefits of a prolonged Wall Street rally.The $38 billion that New Jersey and its residents have received in federal stimulus funding, a short-term extension of a corporate tax and a $504 million windfall from the so-called millionaire’s tax also helped, Ms. Muoio said.The release of New Jersey’s proposed 2022 fiscal year budget comes as Congress continues to debate President Biden’s $1.9 trillion virus relief package. The proposed package includes considerable funds for states and municipalities as well as grant and loan programs for small businesses.Other states have seen similarly strong signs of an economic rebound even as cases of the virus have spiked nationwide over the last several months and the nation’s death toll surpassed 500,000 on Monday.Earlier this month, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that large sectors of the economy were adapting to the pandemic better than originally expected and that December’s economic aid package had helped.Mr. Murphy, who is running for re-election in November, said the spending plan was designed to not only enable the state to scrape through the pandemic, but to help it emerge stronger.“This is the time for us to lean into the policies that can fix our decades-old — or in some cases centuries-old — inequities,” the governor said Tuesday in a budget address, which he delivered virtually.A key pillar of the budget is a proposal to fully fund the state’s public sector pension obligations for the first time since 1996.The state has not set aside the full amount of its pension obligation for 25 years, leading $4 billion in extra debt to accrue over time, Ms. Muoio said. Under a deal brokered with the Legislature, Mr. Murphy had been on track to fully fund the state’s share by the 2023 fiscal year. But the spending plan released on Tuesday sets aside $6.4 billion for the pension system, accelerating full funding by a year.“New Jersey is done kicking problems down the road,” the governor said. “We are solving them.”Under the plan, the state’s surplus, which proved to be a vital resource during the first wave of the pandemic, would not grow, officials said, but would remain at about the same level it was at the end of 2020.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Kamala Harris: Women Leaving Work Force During Pandemic Is a 'National Emergency'

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesVaccine RolloutSee Your Local RiskNew Variants TrackerAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main story2.5 Million Women Left the Work Force During the Pandemic. Harris Sees a ‘National Emergency.’“In one year,” Vice President Kamala Harris said, “the pandemic has put decades of the progress we have collectively made for women workers at risk.”On a video call with women’s advocacy groups and lawmakers on Thursday, the vice president painted a dire picture of the situation that millions of American women are facing during the coronavirus pandemic.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesFeb. 18, 2021, 5:50 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris said on Thursday that the 2.5 million women who have left the work force since the beginning of the pandemic constituted a “national emergency” that could be addressed by the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief plan.That number, according to Labor Department data, compares with 1.8 million men who have left the work force. For many women, the demands of child care, coupled with layoffs and furloughs in an economy hit hard by the pandemic, has forced them out of the labor market.“Our economy cannot fully recover unless women can participate fully,” Ms. Harris said on a video call with several women’s advocacy groups and lawmakers, essentially reiterating the argument she made in a Washington Post op-ed published last week. On the call, the vice president painted a dire picture of the situation that millions of American women are facing during the pandemic. “In one year,” she said, “the pandemic has put decades of the progress we have collectively made for women workers at risk.”“Women are not opting out of the work force,” Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut and the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said after attending the panel. “They are being pushed by inadequate policies.”As part of its $1.9 trillion relief plan, the Biden administration has outlined several elements that officials say will ease the burden on unemployed and working women, including $3,000 in tax credits issued to families for each child, a $40 billion investment in child care assistance and an extension of unemployment benefits.Ms. Harris said on Thursday that the package would “lift up nearly half of the children who are living in poverty in our country,” a claim backed by a Columbia University analysis of the plan.A recent Quinnipiac poll showed broad support for the Biden administration’s proposal, but so far, Republicans have not embraced it. Democrats aim to pass the plan using a fast-track budgetary process known as reconciliation, which would allow them to push it through the Senate with a simple majority. Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, unveiled his own child tax credit proposal this month, but it was promptly panned by colleagues in his party.“I think that there is absolute reason to believe that Republicans should support this,” said Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, who participated in the call. But she added that her party had ensured that the proposal could go forward without the Republicans.Child care remains an issue for working mothers, and it was a major theme of the round table on Thursday. Nearly 400,000 child care jobs have been lost since the outset of the pandemic, Ms. Harris said. The closings of small businesses and the loss of millions of jobs have created the “perfect storm” for women, particularly for Black business owners, she added. “The longer we wait to act,” she said, “the harder it will be to bring these millions of women back into the work force.”The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Biden and the Fed Leave 1970s Inflation Fears Behind

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskNew Variants TrackerVaccine RolloutAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyBiden and the Fed Leave 1970s Inflation Fears BehindAdministration and Fed officials argue that workers not getting enough stimulus help is a larger concern than potential spikes in consumer prices.Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell has brushed off concerns about inflation, saying the bigger risk to the economy is doing too little rather than doing too much.Credit…Pool photo by Susan WalshJim Tankersley and Feb. 15, 2021Updated 5:54 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — Presidents who find themselves digging out of recessions have long heeded the warnings of inflation-obsessed economists, who fear that acting aggressively to stimulate a struggling economy will bring a return of the monstrous price increases that plagued the nation in the 1970s.Now, as President Biden presses ahead with plans for a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, he and his top economic advisers are brushing those warnings aside, as is the Federal Reserve under Chair Jerome H. Powell.After years of dire inflation predictions that failed to pan out, the people who run fiscal and monetary policy in Washington have decided the risk of “overheating” the economy is much lower than the risk of failing to heat it up enough.Democrats in the House plan to spend this week finalizing Mr. Biden’s plan to pump nearly $2 trillion into the economy, including direct checks to Americans and more generous unemployment benefits, with the aim of holding a floor vote as early as next week. The Senate is expected to quickly take up the proposal as soon as it clears the House, in the hopes of sending a final bill to Mr. Biden’s desk early next month. Fed officials have signaled that they plan to keep holding rates near zero and buying government-backed debt at a brisk clip to stoke growth.The Fed and the administration are staying the course despite a growing outcry from some economists across the political spectrum, including Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury secretary and top adviser in the Clinton and Obama administrations, who say Mr. Biden’s plans could stir up a whirlwind of rising prices.No one better embodies the sudden break from decades of worry over inflation — in Washington and elite circles of economics — than Janet L. Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chair and current Treasury secretary. Ms. Yellen spent the bulk of her career fighting in a war against inflation that economists have been waging for more than a half century. But at a time when the American economy remains 10 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic levels, and millions of people face hunger and eviction, she appears to be ready to move on.President Biden and Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, are pursuing a $1.9 trillion stimulus package to help struggling households and businesses make it through the pandemic downturn.Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times“I have spent many years studying inflation and worrying about inflation,” Ms. Yellen told CNN earlier this month. “But we face a huge economic challenge here and tremendous suffering in the country. We have got to address that. That’s the biggest risk.”In the guarded language of a Fed chair, Mr. Powell used a speech last week to push back on the idea that the economy was at risk of overheating. He said that prices could show a brief pop in the coming months, as they rebound from very low readings last year, and he said the economy could see a “burst” of spending and temporarily higher inflation when it fully reopened. But he said he expected such increases to be short-lived — not the sustained spiral that many economists worry about.“That’s really not going to mean very much,” Mr. Powell said, noting that inflation has trended lower for decades. “Inflation dynamics will evolve, but it’s hard to make the case why they would evolve very suddenly, in this current situation.”A small but influential group of economists is questioning that view — in particular, calling for Mr. Biden to scale back his economic aid plans, which include sending direct payments to most American households, increasing the size and duration of benefits for the long-term unemployed and spending big to accelerate Covid vaccine deployment across the country.They argue that the size of the package outstrips the size of the hole the coronavirus has left in the economy. With so many dollars chasing a limited supply of goods and services, the argument goes, purchasing power could erode or the Fed might need to abruptly lift interest rates, which could send the economy back into a downturn.“It’s hard to look at all those factors and not conclude there’s going to be inflationary pressure,” said Michael R. Strain, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who supported relief efforts earlier in the recession but was among the first economists to warn Mr. Biden’s plans could set off price spikes. “My worry is that by pushing the economy so hard, that will lead to some overheating.”The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    A Year of Hardship, Helped and Hindered by Washington

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskNew Variants TrackerVaccine RolloutA Year of Hardship, Helped and Hindered by WashingtonFor Kathryn Stewart, a struggling single mother in Michigan, the past year showed how much safety net programs can help — and how the nation’s fickleness about them can add confusion and uncertainty to fear and worry.Credit…Supported byContinue reading the main storyFeb. 14, 2021Updated 2:57 p.m. ETWhen the coronavirus pandemic struck last March, Kathryn Stewart was working at a gas station in rural Michigan and living in her mother’s trailer with eight relatives, three dogs and a budget with no room for error. Her mother, who is disabled, soon urged her to quit to avoid bringing home the disease. Ms. Stewart reluctantly agreed, wondering how she would support herself and her 10-year-old son.An expanded safety net caught her, after being rushed into place by Congress last spring with rare bipartisan support.To her surprise, Ms. Stewart not only received unemployment insurance but a weekly bonus of $600 more than tripled her income. A stimulus check offered additional help, as did a modest food stamp increase. Despite opaque rules and confounding delays, the outpouring of government aid lifted her above the poverty line.Six months later, after temporary aid expired and deadlock in Washington returned, Ms. Stewart’s benefits fell to a trickle, and she was all but homeless after a family fight forced her from the trailer to a friend’s spare room. She skipped meals to feed her son, sold possessions to conjure cash and suffered anxiety attacks so severe they sometimes kept her in bed.Just as Ms. Stewart finally found a job, celebration turned to shock: The state demanded that she repay the jobless aid she had received, claiming she had been ineligible. That left her with an eye-popping debt of more than $12,000.“I spent the whole day just trying to breathe,” Ms. Stewart said the day the notice arrived. “I’m really confused about the whole thing. I’m trying not to panic.”At times during 2020, Kathryn Stewart was bringing in more money than ever because of government aid programs. At other times, when the aid dried up, she and her son went hungry.Credit…Brittany Greeson for The New York TimesIn the robust aid she received and its painful disappearance, Ms. Stewart’s experience captures both sides of the gyrating federal efforts to fortify the safety net in a crisis of historic proportions.As the virus ravaged jobs last spring, rapid federal action protected millions of people from hardship and showed that government can be a powerful force in reducing poverty.Yet the expiration of aid a few months later also underscored how vulnerable the needy are to partisan standoffs in an age of polarized government. Gaps in aid left families short on food and rent, uncertainty made it impossible to plan and confusion joined fear and worry.In his first weeks in office, President Biden appears to have both lessons in mind. A benefit extension passed in December expires next month, and he is urging Congress to spend big and move fast to keep 11 million workers from losing unemployment aid. Democrats are advancing his $1.9 trillion plan for stimulus and relief with a fast-track procedure that limits their policy options but increases the odds of avoiding more whipsaw delays.Critics of the spending warn it swells the national debt and erodes incentives to work. Supporters say the government’s impact has rarely seemed so direct: When help flowed at extraordinary levels, poverty fell. When it ended, poverty rose.“This could be a watershed moment,” said H. Luke Shaefer, who runs a poverty research center at the University of Michigan. “We showed how much government can do to mitigate hardship, even if the effort didn’t last.”Ms. Stewart and her son, Jack, had to rely at one point on a friend for housing.Credit…Brittany Greeson for The New York TimesWith millions still depending on government aid in a weak recovery, Ms. Stewart’s experience over the past 10 months highlights the stakes. As her complex life shows, the causes of poverty often run deep, and some lie beyond the reach of a government check. But the aid, while it lasted, broke her fall, and she is now back on her feet.In recent weeks, Ms. Stewart, 36, has been working at an Amazon warehouse and fighting Michigan’s efforts to recoup her unemployment benefits. She said she was “super happy” to no longer be at risk from another Washington impasse.An introspective woman, insightful about her hardships but distant from politics, she wonders how federal help has at once been so generous and so unsteady — a question that weighs on millions of Americans now waiting to see whether Congress moves quickly enough to sustain their benefits.“It made a huge difference in our lives,” Ms. Stewart said. “But it starts and stops and it’s really confusing. You feel helpless when you’re being helped by the government.”Should another crisis arise, she said, “I hope the government has a better plan.”Anxiety, Solitude and Then the PandemicMs. Stewart grew up accustomed to hardship and inventive in her responses. In a family too poor for vacations, she created her own by tagging along on her stepfather’s tractor-trailer runs. When he fought with her mother, she sheltered in closets. When he left, her mother tried to quell the family’s hunger with diet pills. Ms. Stewart was in grade school when panic attacks started, which she blamed on the conflict.An unsupervised adolescence followed in Grand Rapids, where Ms. Stewart slept in parks with runaways. She liked the literature of bohemians and rebels — Hunter S. Thompson and Oscar Wilde — but left school at 16 and lived in her car. Short on formal education, Ms. Stewart was long on curiosity and peripatetic instinct, which carried her from Ireland to California in between seasonal work at Michigan resorts. She dyed her hair unusual colors. She gave herself tattoos. She covered her walls with the surrealist works of Salvador Dalí, in shared faith that “you create your own reality.” Fearful of forgetting, Ms. Stewart kept a memory box, which included a middle-school note, a ukulele pick and clippings from her first mohawk.CreditMs. Stewart’s shift at an Amazon warehouse starts at 1:20 a.m. “I’m a number but a number with a paycheck,” she said.Credit…Brittany Greeson for The New York TimesIn her mid-20s, Ms. Stewart married and had a son, Jack, but her husband left and her anxiety grew. “Over the years I’ve gotten real anxious — almost afraid of people,” she said. “I’m an empath — if someone else feels bad, I feel bad.”Still, Ms. Stewart worked, most happily in solitude.By 2019, Ms. Stewart was a night janitor and living with her sister in Grand Rapids. Her sister fell behind on the rent and insisted they move in with their mother, five hours away in rural Ossineke. Ms. Stewart grudgingly succumbed. “We all rely on each other, which is good except for us not getting along,” she said.With four children and conflicting parenting styles, the trailer proved crowded and tense. When Ms. Stewart found work as a gas station cashier — $10 an hour, 20 hours a week — she welcomed the escape as much as the pay.A few weeks later, the coronavirus hit.Against All Odds, Help Was on the Way As the virus spread in early March, President Donald J. Trump insisted it posed no threat. “Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring,” he tweeted. By the next week, Disneyland and Broadway were padlocked and the stock market notched its worst daily loss in decades.While the need for Washington action was clear, the risks of an impasse were great. Liberal Democrats controlled the House, conservative Republicans held the Senate, and Mr. Trump derided the House speaker as “Crazy Nancy” Pelosi. Yet within a few weeks, they agreed on a $2.2 trillion plan.One surprise was how much it did for the poor, a class not known for political clout. Even the poorest families fully qualified for stimulus payments — $1,200 for adults, $500 for children (some Republicans had proposed giving them less) — and at the Democrats’ insistence, Congress greatly expanded jobless benefits.The existing program was filled with gaps: It covered only about a quarterof the jobless and replaced less than half their lost wages. Congress widened coverage, temporarily adding part-time workers, independent contractors and others typically excluded. And for four months it gave everyone on jobless aid a large bonus: $600 a week.The payments were more than many workers had earned on the job. Critics said the aid would discourage the jobless from seeking work, but urgency prevailed. “Gag and vote for it anyway,” the Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, advised fellow Republicans. The Senate vote was 96 to 0.Approving aid was one thing, delivering it another. Most stimulus checks arrived automatically and fast, though people who did not file tax returns had to contact the Internal Revenue Service — a procedural hurdle that kept payments from about eight million potentially eligible people, mostly low-income. Households with undocumented immigrants were barred from stimulus checks, which excluded about five million spouses and children who were citizens or legal residents.Unemployment insurance proved harder to get. With nearly 40 million claims in nine weeks, the state-run programs were overwhelmed. Computers crashed. Phone lines jammed. Governors called in the National Guard to process requests.Food shortages soared, especially among families with children as school closures deprived millions of meals. Lines outside food banks stretched for miles.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Democrats to Unveil Up to $3,600 Child Tax Credit as Part of Stimulus Bill

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskVaccine InformationCalifornia Anti-Vaccine ProtestsAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyDemocrats to Unveil Up to $3,600 Child Tax Credit as Part of Stimulus BillThe credit would send monthly payments to millions of Americans under certain income thresholds for a year starting in July.“This money is going to be the difference in a roof over someone’s head or food on their table,” said Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York TimesEmily Cochrane and Feb. 7, 2021, 5:20 p.m. ETWASHINGTON —  Top House Democrats are preparing to unveil legislation that would send up to $3,600 per child to millions of Americans, as lawmakers aim to change the tax code to target child poverty rates as part of President Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion stimulus package.The proposal would expand the child tax credit to provide $3,600 per child younger than 6 and $3,000 per child up to 17 over the course of a year, phasing out the payments for Americans who make more than $75,000 and couples who make more than $150,000. The draft 22-page provision, reported earlier by The Washington Post and obtained by The New York Times, is expected to be formally introduced on Monday as lawmakers race to fill out the contours of Mr. Biden’s stimulus plan.“The pandemic is driving families deeper and deeper into poverty, and it’s devastating,” said Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and one of the champions of the provision. “This money is going to be the difference in a roof over someone’s head or food on their table. This is how the tax code is supposed to work for those who need it most.”The credits would be split into monthly payments from the Internal Revenue Service beginning in July, based on a person’s or family’s income in 2020. Although the proposed credit is only for a year, some Democrats said they would fight to make it permanent, a sweeping move that could reshape efforts to fight child poverty in America.The one-year credit appears likely to garner enough support to be included in the stimulus package, but it will also have to clear a series of tough parliamentary hurdles because of the procedural maneuvers Democrats are using to muscle the stimulus package through, potentially without Republican support.With House Democratic leadership aiming to have the stimulus legislation approved on the chamber floor by the end of the month, Congress moved last week to fast-track Mr. Biden’s stimulus plan even as details of the legislation are still being worked out. Buoyed by support from Democrats in both chambers and a lackluster January jobs report, Mr. Biden has warned that he plans to move ahead with his plan whether or not Republicans support it.Republicans, who have accused Mr. Biden of abandoning promises of bipartisanship and raised concerns about the nation’s debt, have largely balked at his plan because of its size and scope after Congress approved trillions of dollars in economic relief in 2020.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Yellen Warns Jobs Will be Slow to Rebound Without Stimulus

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskVaccine InformationCalifornia Anti-Vaccine ProtestsAdvertisementContinue reading the main storyCovid-19 News: South Africa Halts Use of AstraZeneca VaccineYellen Warns Jobs Will be Slow to Rebound Without StimulusFeb. 7, 2021, 12:02 p.m. ETFeb. 7, 2021, 12:02 p.m. ETEmpty storefronts in Manhattan last month. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is urging lawmakers to pass a sizable coronavirus aid package for the sake of the economy.Credit…Mohamed Sadek for The New York TimesThe U.S. labor market is stalling and in a “deep hole” that could take years to escape if lawmakers do not quickly pass an aid package that gives workers a bridge to the end of the pandemic, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen warned on Sunday.By contrast, passing the $1.9 trillion package that President Biden has proposed could allow the economy to reach full employment by next year, Ms. Yellen said.She rebutted concerns that big spending would lead to inflation, and said that the economy would be stuck in the kind of long, slow recovery that followed the 2008 financial crisis if lawmakers do too little now.“The most important risk is that we leave workers and communities scarred by the pandemic and the economic toll that it’s taken,” Ms. Yellen said on the CNN program “State of the Union.” “We have to make sure this doesn’t take a permanent toll on their lives.”Lawrence H. Summers, a former Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, argued in The Washington Post on Thursday that Mr. Biden’s proposal was so big that it might overheat the economy. But Ms. Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, said on CNN that she had spent years studying inflation and that she was confident that policymakers had the tools to deal with it if it were to materialize.Democrats in Congress moved last week to fast-track Mr. Biden’s plan, but the details of the legislation are still being worked out. Ms. Yellen said it was important to ensure that not just low-income workers but also those in the middle class, like teachers and police officers, receive the additional support they need.“Of course it shouldn’t go to very well-off families that don’t need the funds,” Ms. Yellen said on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” adding that Mr. Biden was discussing with Congress where to set the income ceiling for eligibility.After a pandemic aid package passes, Ms. Yellen said, Mr. Biden wants to pass a jobs bill built around infrastructure investment, worker training and addressing climate change.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Republicans Pitch Biden on Smaller Aid Plan as Democrats Prepare to Act Alone

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskVaccine InformationWuhan, One Year LaterAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyRepublicans Pitch Biden on Smaller Aid Plan as Democrats Prepare to Act AloneThe president met at the White House with Republican senators seeking a much smaller stimulus plan, but congressional Democrats pressed forward to force through his $1.9 trillion measure, if necessary.President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Republican senators on Monday about a stimulus plan.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesLuke Broadwater and Feb. 1, 2021Updated 7:43 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — A coalition of 10 Republican senators took a stimulus counterproposal to the White House on Monday evening, urging President Biden to scale back his ambitions for a sweeping $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package in favor of a plan less than one-third the size that they argued could garner the bipartisan consensus the new president has said he is seeking.Their outline, which came as Democrats prepared to push forward on Mr. Biden’s plan with or without Republican backing, amounted to a test of whether the president would opt to pursue a scaled-back measure that could fulfill his pledge to foster broad compromise, or use his majority in Congress to reach for a more robust relief effort enacted over stiff Republican opposition.Mr. Biden appeared eager to signal an openness to negotiating, telling Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and the leader of the group, that he was “anxious” to hear what the senators had to say as they chatted in the Oval Office before the meeting began, and spending two hours behind closed doors in what both sides described as a cordial and productive session.“I wouldn’t say that we came together on a package tonight,” Ms. Collins told reporters as she left. But she called the discussion “excellent” and said Mr. Biden and the senators had agreed to continue their talks. And she said Republicans appreciated that Mr. Biden had devoted his first Oval Office meeting as president to “a frank and very useful discussion” with them.“All of us are concerned about struggling families, teetering small businesses, an overwhelmed health care system, getting vaccines out and into people’s arms, and strengthening our economy and addressing the public health crisis that we face,” Ms. Collins said.Even so, Mr. Biden’s advisers have made clear that the president has little enthusiasm for significantly cutting back on the rescue measure he has proposed. And there was scant evidence, for now, that any Democrats were seriously considering embracing a proposal as limited as the one the Republicans have laid out.“The risk is not that it is too big, this package,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said before the meeting. “The risk is that it is too small. That remains his view.”Republicans outlined the plan as the Congressional Budget Office projected that the American economy would return to its pre-pandemic size by the middle of this year, even if Congress did not approve any more federal aid for the recovery, but that it would be years before everyone thrown off the job by the pandemic would be able to return to work.The rosier-than-expected projections were likely to inject even more debate into the discussions over the stimulus measure, emboldening Republicans who have pushed Mr. Biden to scale back his plan. But they also indicated that there was little risk that another substantial package of federal aid could “overheat” the economy, and reflected the prolonged difficulties of shaking off the virus and returning to full levels of economic activity.The Republicans’ $618 billion proposal would include many of the same elements as Mr. Biden’s plan, with $160 billion for vaccine distribution and development, coronavirus testing and the production of personal protective equipment; $20 billion to help schools reopen; more relief for small businesses; and additional aid to individuals. But it differs in ways large and small, omitting a federal minimum wage increase or direct aid to states and cities.It would slash the direct payments to Americans, providing $1,000 instead of $1,400 and limiting them to the lowest income earners, excluding individuals who earned more than $50,000. It would also pare back federal jobless aid, which is set to lapse in March, setting weekly payments at $300 through June instead of $400 through September.On Capitol Hill, top Democrats said they were worried a smaller package would not adequately meet the needs of struggling Americans.“This proposal is an insult to the millions of workers and families struggling to survive this crisis,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and the incoming Finance Committee chairman, said of the Republican plan. “A bill that sets up yet another cliff for jobless workers in a few short months is a nonstarter.”Hours before Mr. Biden sat down with the Republicans, Democratic leaders began laying the groundwork to move forward on their own, if necessary, with the president’s $1.9 trillion plan through a process known as budget reconciliation, which would allow it to bypass any Republican filibuster with a mere majority vote.Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, filed a joint budget resolution to begin the process, with plans for votes in the Senate by week’s end.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    C.B.O. Report Says U.S. Economy Is Healing But Workers Have A Ways to Go

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesSee Your Local RiskVaccine InformationWuhan, One Year LaterAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyU.S. Economy Is Healing, but Budget Office Says Workers Have a Long Way to GoNew projections from the independent Congressional Budget Office fuel Republicans’ calls for “targeted” economic aid — and Democrats’ push to go big.Workers constructed an outdoor seating area for a restaurant in San Diego last week. While the new budget office report shows that the economy is recovering at a faster pace than expected, officials do not see unemployment falling to its pre-pandemic level by the end of the decade.Credit…Ariana Drehsler for The New York TimesFeb. 1, 2021Updated 6:33 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — The United States economy will return to its pre-pandemic size by the middle of this year, even if Congress does not approve any more federal money to aid the recovery, the Congressional Budget Office said on Monday. But it will be years before everyone thrown off the job by the coronavirus is able to return to work.Those projections could further complicate President Biden’s ability to quickly pass a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, as moderate Republicans and even some left-leaning economists express concerns that too much new federal borrowing could overheat the economy.Still, Democrats worried about families putting food on the table and avoiding eviction or foreclosure as the pandemic continues to suppress economic activity are forging ahead with Mr. Biden’s more aggressive plans, introducing budget resolutions in the House and Senate on Monday that would allow legislation based on the president’s proposals to pass without Republican votes.Mr. Biden met late Monday with a group of 10 Republican senators who have drafted a $600 billion economic aid proposal of their own. It would scale back many of the president’s spending ambitions, like additional unemployment benefits and $1,400 direct payments to individuals, while scrapping other elements entirely, like his proposed aid to state and local governments to patch budget shortfalls.Mr. Biden, who spent three decades in the Senate, has welcomed discussions with Republicans but shown little willingness to significantly cut the cost of his plan. The budget office report on Monday offered some evidence to support his position, with figures suggesting that the economy could absorb substantial new federal assistance without stoking higher inflation or forcing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.Congressional Democrats and many liberal economists on Monday repeated their calls for lawmakers to act swiftly and aggressively to help the large swaths of Americans still struggling to recover, a message echoed by Mr. Biden’s aides.Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters that the budget office report was “not a measure of how each American family is doing and whether the American people are getting the assistance they need.” Mr. Biden, she said, “believes that the risk is not going too small, but not big enough.”The new projections from the office, which is nonpartisan and issues regular budgetary and economic forecasts, show the economy healing faster than the office’s forecasts over the summer suggested it would.Officials told reporters on Monday that the brightening outlook stemmed from large sectors of the economy adapting better and more rapidly to the pandemic than originally expected. It also reflected increased growth driven by a $900 billion economic aid package that Congress passed in December, which included $600 direct checks to individuals and more generous and longer-lasting benefits for the millions of people who are still unemployed.The budget office now expects the unemployment rate to fall to 5.3 percent at the end of the year, down from an 8.4 percent projection in July. The unemployment rate stood at 6.7 percent in December. The economy is expected to grow 3.7 percent for the year, after recording a much smaller contraction in 2020 than the budget office had expected.The Coronavirus Outbreak More