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    How the U.S. Got It (Mostly) Right in the Economy’s Rescue

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }Biden’s Stimulus PlanBiden’s AddressWhat to Know About the BillAnalysis: Economic RescueBenefits for Middle ClassShoppers at a mall in Los Angeles. Consumer spending is nearly back to its prepandemic level.Credit…Mark Abramson for The New York TimesAnalysisHow the U.S. Got It (Mostly) Right in the Economy’s RescueThough the recession has been painful, policymakers cushioned the pandemic’s blow and opened the way to recovery.Shoppers at a mall in Los Angeles. Consumer spending is nearly back to its prepandemic level.Credit…Mark Abramson for The New York TimesSupported byContinue reading the main storyMarch 15, 2021Updated 2:31 p.m. ETWhen the coronavirus pandemic ripped a hole in the economy a year ago, many feared that the United States would repeat the experience of the last recession, when a timid and short-lived government response, in the view of many experts, led to years of high unemployment and anemic wage growth.Instead, the federal government responded with remarkable force and speed. Within weeks after the virus hit American shores, Congress had launched a multitrillion-dollar barrage of programs to expand unemployment benefits, rescue small businesses and send checks to most American households. And this time, unlike a decade ago, Washington is keeping the aid flowing even as the crisis begins to ease: On Thursday, President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion aid bill that will pump still more cash into households, businesses, and state and local governments.The Federal Reserve, too, acted swiftly, deploying emergency tools developed in the financial crisis a decade earlier. Those efforts helped safeguard the financial system — and the central bank has pledged to remain vigilant.The result is an economy far stronger than most forecasters expected last spring, even as the pandemic proved much worse than feared. The unemployment rate has fallen to 6.2 percent, from nearly 15 percent in April. Consumer spending is nearly back to its prepandemic level. Households are sitting on trillions of dollars in savings that could fuel an epic rebound as the health crisis eases.Yet not everyone made it into the lifeboats unscathed, if at all. Millions of laid-off workers waited weeks or months to begin receiving help, often with lasting financial consequences. Aid to hundreds of thousands of small businesses dried up long before they could welcome back customers; many will never reopen. Long lines at food banks and desperate pleas for help on social media reflected the number of people who slipped through the cracks.“The damage that has been done has occurred in a disparate fashion,” said Michelle Holder, a John Jay College economist who has studied the pandemic’s impact. “It’s occurred among low-income families. It’s occurred among Black and brown families. It’s certainly occurred among families that did not have a lot of resources to fall back on.”For many white-collar workers, Dr. Holder said, the pandemic recession may one day look like a mere “bump in the road.” But not for those hit hardest.“It wasn’t just a bump in the road if you were a low-wage worker, if you were a low-income family,” she said. “Their ability to recover is just not the same as ours.”Jesus Quinonez lost his job as a manager at a warehouse in the San Diego area early in the pandemic. He quickly found another job — with a company that shut down before he could begin work. He hasn’t worked since.It took Mr. Quinonez, 62, three months to fight his way through California’s overwhelmed unemployment insurance system and begin receiving benefits. Less than two months later, a $600-a-week unemployment supplement from the federal government expired, leaving Mr. Quinonez, his wife and his four children trying to subsist on a few hundred dollars a week in regular unemployment benefits.By January, Mr. Quinonez was four months behind on rent on the one-bedroom trailer he shares with his family. He had raided his 401(k) account, leaving no savings a few years before his intended retirement. Government nutrition assistance kept his family fed, but it didn’t help with the car payment, or pay for toilet paper.“I started falling behind on my bills, plain and simple,” he said.A closed storefront in Newark. Not everyone made it into the lifeboats unscathed.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York TimesFor hundreds of thousands of small businesses, government aid dried up long before they could welcome back customers. Many will never reopen.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York TimesBut in December, Congress passed a $900 billion aid package, which included a second round of direct checks to households and revived the expanded unemployment programs. By January, Mr. Quinonez was able to pay off at least part of his debt, enough to hold on to the trailer and his car. The next round of aid should carry Mr. Quinonez until he can work again.“As soon as they lift the restrictions and more people get vaccinated, I see things coming back good,” he said. “I expect to get a job, and I expect to continue working until I retire.”Whether Mr. Quinonez’s story — and millions more like it — should count as a success or failure for public policy is partly a matter of perspective. Mr. Quinonez himself is unimpressed: He worked and paid taxes for decades, then found himself subject to a decrepit state computer system and a divided Congress.“Now that we need them, there’s no freaking help,” he said.Research from Eliza Forsythe, an economist at the University of Illinois, found that from June until Feb. 17, only 41 percent of unemployed workers had access to benefits. Some of the rest were unaware of their eligibility or couldn’t navigate the thicket of rules in their states. Others simply weren’t eligible. Asian workers, Black workers and those with less education were disproportionately represented among the nonrecipients.The gaps and delays in the system had consequences.“The impact of that is folks’ having to move out of their apartments because they have this money that’s supposed to be coming but they just haven’t received it,” said Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group. Others kept their homes because of eviction bans, but had their utilities shut off, Ms. Dixon added, or turned to food banks to avoid going hungry — measures of food insecurity surged in the pandemic.Still, the federal government did far more for unemployed workers than in any previous recession. Congress expanded the safety net to cover millions of workers — freelancers, part-time workers, the self-employed — who are left out in normal times. At the peak last summer, the state and federal unemployment systems were paying $5 billion a day in benefits — money that helped workers avoid evictions and hunger and that flowed through the economy, preventing an even worse outcome.The record of other federal responses is similarly mixed. The Paycheck Protection Program helped hundreds of thousands of small businesses but was plagued by administrative hiccups and, at least according to some estimates, saved relatively few jobs. Direct checks to households similarly helped keep families afloat, but sent billions of dollars to households that were already financially stable, while failing to reach some of those who needed the help the most — in some cases because they had not filed tax returns or did not have bank accounts.Beyond the successes and failures of specific programs, any evaluation of the broader economy needs to start with a question: Compared with what?Relative to a world without Covid-19, the economy remains deeply troubled. The United States had 9.5 million fewer jobs in February than a year earlier, a hole deeper than in the worst of the last recession. Gross domestic product fell 3.5 percent in 2020, making it among the worst years on record.Relative to the rosy predictions early in the pandemic — when economists hoped a brief shutdown would let the country beat the virus, then get quickly back to work — the downturn has been long and damaging. But those hopes were dashed not by a failure of economic policy but by the virus itself, and the failure to contain it.“If you want to think back on what we got wrong, really the fundamental errors were about the spread of the virus,” said Karen Dynan, a Harvard economist and Treasury Department official during the Obama administration. But relative to the outcome that forecasters feared in the worst moments last spring, the rebound has been remarkably strong. In May, economists at Goldman Sachs predicted that the unemployment rate would be 12 percent at the end of 2020 and wouldn’t fall below 6 percent until 2024. The same team now expects the rate to fall to 4 percent by the end of this year. Other forecasters have similarly upgraded their projections..css-yoay6m{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-yoay6m{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1dg6kl4{margin-top:5px;margin-bottom:15px;}.css-k59gj9{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;width:100%;}.css-1e2usoh{font-family:inherit;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;border-top:1px solid #ccc;padding:10px 0px 10px 0px;background-color:#fff;}.css-1jz6h6z{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;text-align:left;}.css-1t412wb{box-sizing:border-box;margin:8px 15px 0px 15px;cursor:pointer;}.css-hhzar2{-webkit-transition:-webkit-transform ease 0.5s;-webkit-transition:transform ease 0.5s;transition:transform ease 0.5s;}.css-t54hv4{-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-1r2j9qz{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-e1ipqs{font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;padding:0px 30px 0px 0px;}.css-e1ipqs a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-e1ipqs a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1o76pdf{visibility:show;height:100%;padding-bottom:20px;}.css-1sw9s96{visibility:hidden;height:0px;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}.css-1cz6wm{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;font-family:’nyt-franklin’,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;text-align:left;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1cz6wm{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-1cz6wm:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1cz6wm{border:none;padding:20px 0 0;border-top:1px solid #121212;}Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus PackageThe stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more. Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read moreThis credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.The recovery proved so strong in part because businesses were able to adapt better — and Americans, for better or worse, were willing to take more risks — than many people expected, allowing a faster rebound in activity over the summer. But the biggest factor was that Congress responded more quickly and forcefully than in any past crisis — a particularly remarkable outcome given that both the White House and Senate were controlled by Republicans, a party traditionally skeptical of programs like unemployment insurance.Millions of laid-off workers waited weeks or months to begin receiving help, a lag that often left financial consequences.Credit…Bryan Woolston/ReutersLong lines at food banks provided a hint of the number of people who slipped through the cracks.Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times“The dominant narrative about Washington and about legislating and public policy is one of dysfunction, one of not being able to rise to meet challenges, one of not being able to get it together to address glaring problems, and I think it’s a well-earned narrative,” said Michael R. Strain, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute. “But when I look back over the last year, that is just not what I see.”Congress didn’t prevent a recession. But its intervention, along with aggressive action from the Federal Reserve, may have prevented something much worse.“We could have experienced another Great Depression-like event that took years and years to recover from, and we didn’t,” Dr. Strain said.Washington’s moment of unity didn’t last. Democrats pushed for another multitrillion-dollar dose of aid. Republicans, convinced that the economy would rebound largely on its own once the pandemic eased, wanted a much smaller package. The stalemate lasted months, allowing aid to households and businesses to lapse. Economists are still debating the long-term impact of that delay, but there is little doubt it resulted in thousands of business failures.“We had this grand success that policymakers acted so quickly in passing two significant pieces of legislation early in the pandemic, and then they flailed through the whole fall in just the most frustrating of ways,” said Wendy Edelberg, director of the Hamilton Project, an economic-policy arm of the Brookings Institution. “That was just such an unforced error and created confusion and needless panic.”But unlike in 2009, when Republican opposition prevented any significant economic aid after President Barack Obama’s first few months in office, Congress did eventually provide more help. The $900 billion in aid passed in late December prevented millions of people from losing unemployment benefits, and helped sustain the recovery at a moment when it looked like it was faltering.The $1.9 trillion plan that Democrats pushed through Congress this month could help the United States achieve something it failed to do after the last recession: ensure a robust recovery.If that happens, it could fundamentally shift the narrative around the pandemic recession. The damage was deeply unequal, and the economic response, though it helped many families weather the storm, didn’t come close to overcoming that inequity. But a recovery that restores jobs quickly could help workers like Mr. Quinonez get back on track.“It’s just a bad year, and you just close the page and move on and try to make the best of the new days and new years,” he said. “Things are going to get better.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    A Last-Minute Add to Stimulus Bill Could Restrict State Tax Cuts

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }Personal TaxesNew Pandemic ChangesHelp for Working FamiliesEstate Tax PlanningSmall-Business TipsWorking RemotelyAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyA Last-Minute Add to Stimulus Bill Could Restrict State Tax CutsRepublicans say Congress is infringing on state sovereignty by trying to limit the ability of local governments to control their finances.President Biden signing the $1.9 trillion economic relief plan into law on Thursday at the White House. The restriction is intended to ensure that states use federal funds to keep their local economies humming.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesMarch 12, 2021Updated 7:02 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — A last-minute change in the $1.9 trillion economic relief package that President Biden signed into law this week includes a provision that could temporarily prevent states that receive government aid from turning around and cutting taxes.The restriction, which was added by Senate Democrats, is intended to ensure that states use federal funds to keep their local economies humming and avoid drastic budget cuts and not simply use the money to subsidize tax cuts. But the provision is causing alarm among some local officials, primarily Republicans, who see the move as federal overreach and fear conditions attached to the money will impede upon their ability to manage their budgets as they see fit.Officials are scrambling to understand what strings are attached to the $220 billion that is expected to be parceled out among states, territories and tribes and are already pressing the Treasury Department for guidance about the restrictions they will face if they take federal money.Under the new law, $25 billion will be divided equally among states, while $169 billion will be allocated based on a state’s unemployment rate. States can use the money for pandemic-related costs, offsetting lost revenues to provide essential government services, and for water, sewer and broadband infrastructure projects.But they are prohibited from depositing the money into pension funds — a key worry of Republicans in Congress — and cannot use funds to cut taxes by “legislation, regulation or administration” through 2024.Democrats slipped the new language into the legislation last week after several senators from the party’s moderate wing expressed concern that some states would seize on the opportunity to use emergency relief money to subsidize tax cuts. They worked with Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, on language for the amendment, according to a Democratic Senate aide.Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, explained why he pushed for the language in a briefing this week, arguing that states should not be cutting taxes at a time when they need more money to combat the virus. He urged states to postpone their plans to cut taxes.“How in the world would you cut your revenue during a pandemic and still need dollars?” Mr. Manchin said.Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said the funds were meant “to keep teachers and firefighters on the job and prevent the gutting of state and local services that we saw during the Great Recession.”“It’s important that there are guardrails to prevent these funds from being used to cut taxes for those at the top,” he added.But some Republican-led states are pointing to the apparent prohibition as a violation of their sovereignty and calling for that part of the law to be repealed. They see the requirement that states refrain from cutting taxes as an unusual intervention by the federal government in state tax policy.“It is an intrusion into what would traditionally be a state prerogative of how we balance our budget,” said Ben Watkins, the director of the Florida Division of Bond Finance. “If they want to give us this money to deal with Covid, then they should just give it to us with no strings attached.”Funding for state and local governments was one of the most contentious issues during stimulus talks, with Republicans saying Democrat-led states were being rewarded for mismanaging their finances and labeling the aid as a “blue-state bailout.”Those concerns were amplified in the latest legislation, which allocates money to a state based on a formula that considers its unemployment rate rather than its population. Conservative-leaning states, many of which had less onerous coronavirus restrictions and did not shut down as much business activity, claim they are essentially being penalized for prioritizing their economies during the pandemic.But early analyses of the bill show that both conservative-leaning and liberal-leaning states will receive big chunks of cash. California, Florida, New York and Texas will each get more than $10 billion in aid, according to a Tax Foundation tally.Still, the tax language has angered Republicans — none of whom voted for the rescue package — and on Thursday, Senator Mike Braun, Republican of Indiana, introduced legislation to reverse it.“Democrats are trying to ban states from cutting taxes with a sneaky amendment to the $1.9 trillion so-called Covid relief package,” Mr. Braun said. “Not only did this blue-state bailout bill penalize states for reopening by calculating state funds based on unemployment, now they are trying to use it as a back door to ban states from cutting taxes.”The restrictions have created a conundrum for states because, while many cities are facing budget crunches, state finances have turned out to be relatively healthy.A New York Times analysis this month found that, on balance, state revenues were generally flat or down slightly last year compared with 2019 as expanded unemployment benefits allowed consumer spending and tax revenues to keep flowing.“Idaho would potentially subsidize poorly managed states simply because we are using our record budget surplus to pursue historic tax relief for our citizens,” Gov. Brad Little of Idaho said this week. “We achieved our record budget surplus after years of responsible, conservative governing and quick action during the pandemic, and our surplus should be returned to Idahoans as I proposed.”Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican of West Virginia, criticized Mr. Manchin in an interview this week with CNN..css-yoay6m{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-yoay6m{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1dg6kl4{margin-top:5px;margin-bottom:15px;}.css-k59gj9{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;width:100%;}.css-1e2usoh{font-family:inherit;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;border-top:1px solid #ccc;padding:10px 0px 10px 0px;background-color:#fff;}.css-1jz6h6z{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;text-align:left;}.css-1t412wb{box-sizing:border-box;margin:8px 15px 0px 15px;cursor:pointer;}.css-hhzar2{-webkit-transition:-webkit-transform ease 0.5s;-webkit-transition:transform ease 0.5s;transition:transform ease 0.5s;}.css-t54hv4{-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-1r2j9qz{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-e1ipqs{font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;padding:0px 30px 0px 0px;}.css-e1ipqs a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-e1ipqs a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1o76pdf{visibility:show;height:100%;padding-bottom:20px;}.css-1sw9s96{visibility:hidden;height:0px;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}.css-1cz6wm{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;font-family:’nyt-franklin’,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;text-align:left;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1cz6wm{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-1cz6wm:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1cz6wm{border:none;padding:20px 0 0;border-top:1px solid #121212;}How Has the Pandemic Changed Your Taxes?Nope. The so-called economic impact payments are not treated as income. In fact, they’re technically an advance on a tax credit, known as the Recovery Rebate Credit. The payments could indirectly affect what you pay in state income taxes in a handful of states, where federal tax is deductible against state taxable income, as our colleague Ann Carrns wrote. Read more. Mostly.  Unemployment insurance is generally subject to federal as well as state income tax, though there are exceptions (Nine states don’t impose their own income taxes, and another six exempt unemployment payments from taxation, according to the Tax Foundation). But you won’t owe so-called payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and Medicare. The new relief bill will make the first $10,200 of benefits tax-free if your income is less than $150,000. This applies to 2020 only. (If you’ve already filed your taxes, watch for I.R.S. guidance.) Unlike paychecks from an employer, taxes for unemployment aren’t automatically withheld. Recipients must opt in — and even when they do, federal taxes are withheld only at a flat rate of 10 percent of benefits. While the new tax break will provide a cushion, some people could still owe the I.R.S. or certain states money. Read more. Probably not, unless you’re self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig worker. The tax law overhaul of late 2019 eliminated the home office deduction for employees from 2018 through 2025. “Employees who receive a paycheck or a W-2 exclusively from an employer are not eligible for the deduction, even if they are currently working from home,” the I.R.S. said. Read more. Self-employed people can take paid caregiving leave if their child’s school is closed or their usual child care provider is unavailable because of the outbreak. This works similarly to the smaller sick leave credit — 67 percent of average daily earnings (for either 2020 or 2019), up to $200 a day. But the caregiving leave can be taken for 50 days. Read more. Yes. This year, you can deduct up to $300 for charitable contributions, even if you use the standard deduction. Previously, only people who itemized could claim these deductions. Donations must be made in cash (for these purposes, this includes check, credit card or debit card), and can’t include securities, household items or other property. For 2021, the deduction limit will double to $600 for joint filers. Rules for itemizers became more generous as well. The limit on charitable donations has been suspended, so individuals can contribute up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income, up from 60 percent. But these donations must be made to public charities in cash; the old rules apply to contributions made to donor-advised funds, for example. Both provisions are available through 2021. Read more. “He’s hurting his own people in the state of West Virginia,” Mr. Justice said. “I do not condone it.”The provision is also raising questions about what actually constitutes a tax cut and whether the law could prevent states from other types of tax relief. The language of the legislation appears to offer states little wiggle room.Jared Walczak, the vice president for state projects at the Tax Foundation’s Center for State Tax Policy, said that the fine print in the law raised many complicated questions for states that, in some cases, would be awarded money for things that they either do not need or that they already had plans to pay for out of their budgets. It is not clear, for example, if a state could use aid money for an expense related to the coronavirus that it was already planning to pay for and then offer tax credits with the additional surplus.“If the federal government intends to forbid any sort of revenue negative tax policy, no matter what its size, because a state received some funding, that would be a radical federal entanglement in state fiscal policy that may go beyond what was intended,” Mr. Walczak said.Such questions will largely hinge on how Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen interprets the legislation and what guidance the Treasury Department gives to states.A department official noted that the law says that states and territories that receive the aid cannot use the funds to offset a reduction in net tax revenue as a result of tax cuts because the money is intended to be used to support the public health response and avoid layoffs and cuts to public services. More guidance on the matter is coming, the official said.The lack of clarity also raises the risk that states use the money for projects or programs that do not actually qualify under the law and then are forced to repay the federal government. States are required to submit regular reports to the Treasury Department accounting for how the funds are being spent and to show any other changes that they have made to their tax codes. The department will also be setting up a system of monitoring how the funds are being used.Emily Swenson Brock, the director of the Federal Liaison Center at the Government Finance Officers Association, said that the eligible uses of the federal aid appeared to be relatively limited for the states and that some might actually find it challenging to deploy the money in a useful way.“It’s complicated here for the states,” Ms. Brock said, adding that her organization had asked the Treasury Department for an explanation. “Congress is reaching in and telling these states how they can and can’t use that money.”Before they receive federal funds, states will have to submit a certification promising to use the money according to the law. They could also decline funding or, if they are set on tax cuts, they could offset them with other sources of revenue that do not include the federal funds.For many states, the federal money is welcome even if they do not necessarily need it for public health purposes.Melissa Hortman, the speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, said that she was hopeful that the federal government gives states the flexibility to use the money to make up for lost revenue from the virus. She suggested that the state should look to make new investments in education and transportation. Minnesota is expected to have a budget surplus for the next two years and will receive more than $2 billion in aid.“It’s not too much money,” said Ms. Hortman, a Democrat. “Our country has just lived through a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Biden, Champion of Middle Class, Comes to Aid the Poor

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }Biden’s Stimulus PlanWhat to Know About the BillSenate PassageWhat the Senate Changed$15 Minimum WageChild Tax CreditAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyWith Relief Plan, Biden Takes on a New Role: Crusader for the PoorPresident Biden’s new role as a crusader for Americans in poverty is an evolution for a politician who has focused on the working class and his Senate work on the judiciary and foreign relations.President Biden at a round-table discussion on the American Rescue Plan this month. The House passed the measure on Wednesday and cleared it for his signature.Credit…Al Drago for The New York TimesMichael D. Shear, Carl Hulse and March 11, 2021, 3:00 a.m. ETWASHINGTON — Days before his inauguration, President-elect Biden was eying a $1.3 trillion rescue plan aimed squarely at the middle class he has always championed, but pared down to attract some Republican support.In a private conversation, Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who is now the majority leader, echoed others in the party and urged Mr. Biden to think bigger. True, the coronavirus pandemic had disrupted the lives of those in the middle, but it had also plunged millions of people into poverty. With Democrats in control, the new president should push for something closer to $2 trillion, Mr. Schumer told Mr. Biden.On Friday, “Scranton Joe” Biden, whose five-decade political identity has been largely shaped by his appeal to union workers and blue-collar tradesmen like those from his Pennsylvania hometown, will sign into law a $1.9 trillion spending plan that includes the biggest antipoverty effort in a generation.The new role as a crusader for the poor represents an evolution for Mr. Biden, who spent much of his 36 years in Congress concentrating on foreign policy, judicial fights, gun control and criminal justice issues by virtue of his committee chairmanships in the Senate. For the most part, he ceded domestic economic policy to others.But aides say he has embraced his new role. Mr. Biden has done so in part by following progressives in his party to the left and accepting the encouragement of his inner circle to use Democratic power to make sweeping rather than incremental change. He has also been moved by the inequities in pain and suffering that the pandemic has inflicted on the poorest Americans, aides say.“We all grow,” said Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democrat, whose endorsement in the primaries was crucial to Mr. Biden winning the presidency. “During the campaign, he recognized what was happening in this country, this pandemic. It is not like anything we have had in 100 years. If you are going to address Covid-19’s impact, you have to address the economic disparities that exist in this country.”A vast share of the money approved by Congress will benefit the lowest-income Americans, including tax credits and direct checks, of which nearly half will be delivered to people who are unemployed, below the poverty line or barely making enough to feed and shelter their families. Billions of dollars will be used to extend benefits for the unemployed. Child tax credits will largely benefit the poorest Americans.“Millions of people out of work through no fault of their own,” the president said moments after the relief act passed the Senate over the weekend. “I want to emphasize that: through no fault of their own. Food bank lines stretching for miles. Did any of you ever think you’d see that in America, in cities all across this country?”Mr. Biden touring a food bank in Houston last month. “Food bank lines stretching for miles,” he said after the relief act passed the Senate over the weekend. “Did any of you ever think you’d see that in America, in cities all across this country?”Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesThe president’s closest advisers insist that the far-reaching antipoverty effort — a core tenet of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party — is less of an ideological shift from Mr. Biden’s middle-class roots than it is a response to the moment he finds himself in: presiding over a historic health crisis that has vastly increased the number of poor Americans.They are quick to note that the president’s American Rescue Plan also directs enormous sums of money to middle-income people who have jobs but are struggling. Working families making up to $150,000 will receive direct payments, help for child care and expanded child tax credits that will bolster their annual incomes during the pandemic.Mr. Biden is planning a public relations blitz across the country during the next several weeks to promote the benefits of the relief package and his role in pushing it through Congress. His campaign will begin on Thursday with a prime-time address from the Oval Office for the first anniversary of the Covid restrictions imposed by President Donald J. Trump.After that, aides say Mr. Biden will travel to communities that benefit from the provisions of the new law, in part to build the case for making some of the temporary measures a permanent part of the social safety net.Congressional Democrats are also determined to make sure the public understands what is in the new bill. In a letter sent on Tuesday to his colleagues, Mr. Schumer said that “we cannot be shy in telling the American people how this historic legislation directly helps them.”Among the lessons Democrats say they have learned from the political backlash in 2010 to their handling of the economic crisis in 2009 is that they were not aggressive enough in selling the benefits of their stimulus package to voters a decade ago. It is not a mistake they intend to make again.Even as Mr. Biden’s stimulus victory lap will be embraced by the left, he remains in the cautious middle so far on foreign policy, easing off on punishing the crown prince of Saudi Arabia for ordering the killing of a Washington Post journalist and imposing only modest sanctions on Russia for the poisoning and jailing of Aleksei A. Navalny, the opposition leader there.Mr. Biden’s former Senate colleagues also acknowledge that historically he was never a driver of liberal economic policy.Once a 29-year-old Senate candidate who pushed for civil rights and opposed the Vietnam War, Mr. Biden later drifted toward the middle, adapting to the political moment in 1996 by backing a bipartisan welfare overhaul supported by President Bill Clinton but opposed by many liberals who saw it as punitive and politically driven. Mr. Biden is now embracing a sweeping expansion of the welfare state with a price tag that is just under half of what the entire federal government spent in 2019.“He has gotten in front of it and put his stamp on it,” said Rahm Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff..css-yoay6m{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-yoay6m{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1dg6kl4{margin-top:5px;margin-bottom:15px;}.css-k59gj9{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;width:100%;}.css-1e2usoh{font-family:inherit;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;border-top:1px solid #ccc;padding:10px 0px 10px 0px;background-color:#fff;}.css-1jz6h6z{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;text-align:left;}.css-1t412wb{box-sizing:border-box;margin:8px 15px 0px 15px;cursor:pointer;}.css-hhzar2{-webkit-transition:-webkit-transform ease 0.5s;-webkit-transition:transform ease 0.5s;transition:transform ease 0.5s;}.css-t54hv4{-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-1r2j9qz{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-e1ipqs{font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;padding:0px 30px 0px 0px;}.css-e1ipqs a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-e1ipqs a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1o76pdf{visibility:show;height:100%;padding-bottom:20px;}.css-1sw9s96{visibility:hidden;height:0px;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}.css-1cz6wm{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;font-family:’nyt-franklin’,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;text-align:left;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1cz6wm{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-1cz6wm:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1cz6wm{border:none;padding:20px 0 0;border-top:1px solid #121212;}Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus PackageThe stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more. Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read moreThis credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.Tom Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader and a longtime colleague of Mr. Biden’s, acknowledged that the president — who was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995 and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2001 to 2003 — was not a leader in those years on economic policy. But he said it was natural that Mr. Biden would aggressively tackle it now, given conditions in the country.“Times have changed,” Mr. Daschle said, noting that “economic and racial disparities have become more acute, more understood and more important in recent years.” He pointed to the new $3,000 child tax credit, a temporary benefit included in the package, and compared its transformational potential to the Medicare program enacted under President Lyndon B. Johnson should it become permanent.“If or when it does,” Mr. Daschle said, “Joe Biden will be seen as the L.B.J. for low-income families in dramatically improving their economic circumstances.”Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, at a news conference last week. “We cannot be shy in telling the American people how this historic legislation directly helps them,” he wrote in a letter sent on Tuesday to colleagues.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York TimesDuring the presidential campaign, Mr. Biden spoke about “rebuilding the backbone of the nation,” a phrase that sometimes appeared to include a promise to provide significant help for people at the bottom of the economic ladder.“Ending poverty won’t be just an aspiration, but a way to build a new economy,” he said in 2019, as he campaigned for the Democratic nomination. Once in the Oval Office, Mr. Biden hung a picture of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and invoked the Depression-era president in his private conversations with lawmakers.The plight of the middle class has long animated Mr. Biden. He lamented their fortunes when he ran for president in 1988, during the Reagan era, and was often a lonely voice for the same constituency while serving as vice president, when he was President Barack Obama’s de facto liaison to organized labor.To that end, Mr. Biden has also emphasized the parts of the relief package dedicated to making life easier for the working- and middle-class voters he has always courted.“For a typical middle-class family of four — husband and wife working, making $100,000 a year total with two kids — will get $5,600, and it’ll be on the way soon,” Mr. Biden told reporters on Saturday.But for now, his path forward is clear. Even though Mr. Biden listened politely last month when a group of Senate Republicans visited the Oval Office and pitched him on a smaller compromise deal on the relief package, he held fast to the ambitious proposal put forth by congressional Democrats. In his first major act as president, Mr. Biden leveraged the pandemic to fulfill some of the left’s longstanding goals.Representative Pete Aguilar of California, a member of the Democratic leadership, announced at a news conference on Tuesday that the relief law “represents the boldest action taken on behalf of the American people since the Great Depression.” And Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, praised the president.“Joe Biden has been clear that we have to go big at a moment like this,” he said.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Biden Plans Messaging Blitz to Sell Economic Aid Plan

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }Biden’s Stimulus PlanWhat to Know About the BillSenate PassageWhat the Senate Changed$15 Minimum WageChild Tax CreditAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyBiden Plans Messaging Blitz to Sell Economic Aid PlanDrawing on a lesson from early in the Obama administration, the White House wants to tell voters how the legislation will help them and keep Republicans from defining it on their terms.President Biden, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, answered questions from reporters on Saturday after the Senate vote to approve a $1.9 trillion relief package.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesJim Tankersley and March 10, 2021Updated 7:23 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — President Biden is planning an aggressive campaign to tell voters about the benefits for them in the $1.9 trillion economic relief package that won final congressional approval on Wednesday, an attempt to ensure that he and his fellow Democrats get full political credit for the first big victory of his administration.The effort will start with Mr. Biden’s scheduled prime-time address to the nation on Thursday and include travel by the president and Vice President Kamala Harris across multiple states, events with a wide range of cabinet members emphasizing themes of the legislation and endorsements from Republican mayors, administration officials said on Wednesday.The White House’s decision to get out and sell the package after its passage reflects a lesson from the early months of the Obama administration. In 2009, fighting to help the economy recover from a crippling financial crisis, President Barack Obama never succeeded in building durable popular support for a similar stimulus bill and allowed Republicans to define it on their terms, fueling a partisan backlash and the rise of the Tea Party movement.Mr. Biden starts with the advantage that the legislation, which he is set to sign on Friday, is widely popular in national polling. And it will deliver a series of tangible benefits to low- and middle-income Americans, including direct payments of $1,400 per individual, just as the economy’s halting recovery from the pandemic recession is poised to accelerate.Speaking briefly to reporters on Wednesday, the president called the legislation “a historic, historic victory for the American people.”After his address from the Oval Office on Thursday night, Mr. Biden will headline a public relations effort over several weeks that aides say will involve his entire cabinet and White House communications officials, and support from like-minded business and policy organizations and political supporters at all levels around the country. The White House announced on Wednesday that Mr. Biden would visit the Philadelphia suburbs next week.Unlike President Donald J. Trump, who loved to serve at times as a singular pitchman for the economic policies under his administration, Mr. Biden will lead an all-hands effort.It is a striking contrast to the strategy pursued by the Obama administration, when Mr. Biden was vice president. Mr. Obama’s first major legislative victory was a nearly $800 billion stimulus bill that passed with the backing of a majority of voters, but it lost support over time.Mr. Biden was still trying to sell voters on the benefits of that plan in 2016, near the end of his time as vice president. He told congressional Democrats this month that the administration had “paid a price” for failing to better market the bill early on.Mr. Obama struggled in part because the economy was still contracting when his plan passed, and its rollout was overshadowed by an arduously slow recovery from recession. “President Obama gave speech after speech” to sell his stimulus plan, Dan Pfeiffer, who was a White House communications director under Mr. Obama, wrote this week. “He visited factory after factory that had reopened because of the Recovery Act. But it was nearly impossible to break through the avalanche of bad news.”The circumstances appear to be different this year. Democrats are buoyed by polls that show Mr. Biden’s relief package winning as much as three-quarters support from voters nationwide, including large swaths of Republicans, even after a month of attacks from congressional Republicans who voted in unison against its passage in both the House and the Senate.More than 7 in 10 Americans backed Mr. Biden’s aid package as of last month, according to polling from the online research firm SurveyMonkey for The New York Times. That includes support from three-quarters of independent voters, 2 in 5 Republicans and nearly all Democrats. A poll released on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found similar support.Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Biden’s main message would echo his campaign theme: “Help is on the way.”Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesThe Biden team also appears to have economic circumstances working in its favor. Job growth accelerated in February, Mr. Biden’s first full month in office. Forecasters expect economic growth to speed up even more in the months to come because of the increasingly widespread deployment of Covid-19 vaccines across the country, which should allow consumers to start spending more on activities like traveling or dining out, which many have cut back on over the past year because of the pandemic.Forecasters expect the relief package to further fuel growth, in part by shuttling money to low- and middle-income Americans who disproportionately lost jobs and incomes in the crisis. The O.E.C.D. predicted this week that the Biden plan would help the United States economy grow at a 6.5 percent rate this year, which would be its fastest annual clip since the early 1980s.The timing of the bill could bolster Mr. Biden’s attempts to claim credit for that rebound, even though forecasters were projecting a return to growth — albeit a smaller one than they now predict — before he took office. Mr. Trump did something similar in 2017: Growth had slowed in early 2016, but it had begun to improve in the second half of that year, before Mr. Trump won the White House. Yet he persistently claimed he had engineered the greatest economy in American history.Still, Biden administration officials are mindful that political opposition could easily fester and grow if they do not clearly explain the contents — and direct benefits — of a bill that will be the second-largest economic aid package in American history, trailing only the initial bill that lawmakers approved under Mr. Trump last year as the worsening pandemic pushed the nation into recession. .css-yoay6m{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-yoay6m{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1dg6kl4{margin-top:5px;margin-bottom:15px;}.css-k59gj9{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;width:100%;}.css-1e2usoh{font-family:inherit;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;border-top:1px solid #ccc;padding:10px 0px 10px 0px;background-color:#fff;}.css-1jz6h6z{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;text-align:left;}.css-1t412wb{box-sizing:border-box;margin:8px 15px 0px 15px;cursor:pointer;}.css-hhzar2{-webkit-transition:-webkit-transform ease 0.5s;-webkit-transition:transform ease 0.5s;transition:transform ease 0.5s;}.css-t54hv4{-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-1r2j9qz{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-e1ipqs{font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;padding:0px 30px 0px 0px;}.css-e1ipqs a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-e1ipqs a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1o76pdf{visibility:show;height:100%;padding-bottom:20px;}.css-1sw9s96{visibility:hidden;height:0px;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}.css-1cz6wm{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;font-family:’nyt-franklin’,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;text-align:left;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1cz6wm{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-1cz6wm:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1cz6wm{border:none;padding:20px 0 0;border-top:1px solid #121212;}Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus PackageThe stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more. Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read moreThis credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.Republicans continued to attack the bill on the House floor on Wednesday, casting it as overly expensive, ineffectively targeted and bloated with longstanding liberal priorities unrelated to the pandemic.“Because Democrats chose to prioritize their political ambitions instead of the working class,” Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, said in a news release, “they just passed the wrong plan, at the wrong time, for all the wrong reasons.”Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, one of the few Democrats in the chamber to represent a state Mr. Biden lost to Mr. Trump in 2020, called the Republican attacks “lies” and said they showed why Democrats needed to remind voters of the benefits to people and businesses included in the bill.“You’ve got to sell it, because they’re going to lie about everything,” Mr. Brown said. “The sale is an easy sell, but you need to continue to remind” voters about the contents of the package, he said.With that in mind, Mr. Biden is scheduled to follow his speech on Thursday with travel to states led by both Democratic and Republican governors in the coming weeks to begin the sales pitch. Among the options being considered, if they can be done safely during the pandemic, are town-hall-style events that allow the president to directly take questions from people.The main message, according to Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, will be an echo of one of Mr. Biden’s chief campaign promises: “Help is on the way.”The president’s political and communications advisers have identified 10 themes that they want to tackle, one by one, in the days and weeks ahead. They include food insecurity, child poverty, bolstering rural health care, school reopening, help for veterans and help for small businesses.“We’ll be emphasizing a number of components that are in the package and really having a conversation,” Ms. Psaki said. “This is important to the president personally, having a conversation directly with people about how they can benefit, addressing questions they have, even taking their feedback on implementation.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    To Juice the Economy, Biden Bets on the Poor

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Jobs CrisisCurrent Unemployment RateWhen the Checks Run OutThe Economy in 9 ChartsThe First 6 MonthsAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storynews analysisTo Juice the Economy, Biden Bets on the PoorMr. Biden’s bottom-up $1.9 trillion aid package is a sharp reversal from the tax cut bill that was President Donald J. Trump’s first big legislative victory.Volunteers distributing food on Monday in Warren, Mich. President Biden’s economic relief plan overwhelmingly helps low earners and the middle class and is more focused on people than on businesses.Credit…Elaine Cromie for The New York TimesPublished More

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    Biden Looks to a Consensus Builder to Heal a Democratic Rift on Trade

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyBiden Looks to a Consensus Builder to Heal a Democratic Rift on TradeKatherine Tai, the Biden administration’s nominee for trade representative, will set the course for the Democrats’ worker-focused approach to trade.Katherine Tai, President Biden’s nominee for U.S. trade representative, will testify before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York TimesFeb. 24, 2021Updated 6:24 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — The negotiations lasted late into the evening, leaving some members of Congress shouting and pounding the table in frustration as they fought over what would be included in the revised North American Free Trade Agreement.Katherine Tai, the chief trade counsel to the House’s powerful Ways and Means Committee, appeared unflappable to those in the room as she helped to hammer out compromises that would ultimately bring Democrats on board in late 2019 to support the 2,082-page trade pact negotiated by the Trump administration, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.In negotiations throughout 2019, Ms. Tai calmly helped to assemble an unlikely coalition to support the trade deal, ultimately mollifying the concerns of both business lobbyists and labor unions, forging ties between Democrats and Republicans, and helping to persuade Mexican officials to accept strict new oversight of their factories, her former colleagues say.“Katherine was the glue that held us together,” said Representative Suzanne Bonamici, an Oregon Democrat who played a leading role in the negotiations. “If you end up with a product that has support from the A.F.L.-C.I.O. to the Chamber of Commerce, that is an unusual feat.”The Biden administration is now pinning its hopes on Ms. Tai, its nominee for United States trade representative, to serve as a consensus builder and help bridge the Democratic Party’s varying views on trade. Ms. Tai is scheduled to appear for her confirmation hearing on Thursday morning before the Senate Finance Committee.Ms. Tai has strong connections in Congress, and supporters expect her nomination to proceed smoothly. But if confirmed, she will face bigger challenges, including filling in the details of what the Biden administration has called its “worker focused” trade approach.As trade representative, Ms. Tai would be a key player in restoring alliances strained under President Donald J. Trump. She would also be crucial to formulating the administration’s China policy, an area in which she would be expected to draw on her experience bringing cases against Beijing at the World Trade Organization.She would also take charge on decisions on matters that divide the Democratic Party, like whether to keep the tariffs Mr. Trump imposed on foreign products, and whether new foreign trade deals will help the United States compete globally or end up selling American workers short.In a statement prepared for the Finance Committee, Ms. Tai wrote that her “first priority” would be helping American communities emerge from the pandemic and economic crisis, followed by an effort to enforce the terms of the U.S.M.C.A., rebuild international alliances and address China’s unfair trade practices.“I know firsthand how critically important it is that we have a strategic and coherent plan for holding China accountable to its promises and effectively competing with its model of state-directed economics,” her prepared testimony read.Both the Biden administration and members of Congress see finding consensus on trade issues as paramount, given the deep divisions that dogged Democrats in the past.During President Barack Obama’s administration, the trade representative sparred with labor unions and many Democratic lawmakers over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact between countries along the Pacific Rim.Mr. Obama and his supporters saw the agreement as key to countering China. But progressive Democrats believed the pact would send more U.S. jobs offshore and fought the administration on its passage. Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the deal, and the remaining countries in the pact went on to sign it without the United States.The New WashingtonLatest UpdatesUpdated Feb. 24, 2021, 5:50 p.m. ET‘It was like the old days.’ Biden hails bipartisan spirit after meeting with lawmakers on supply chains.An awkward exchange by top Republicans at the Capitol illustrates their post-Trump reality.Virginia Republicans will pick their nominee for governor at a drive-through convention in May.Democrats “spent a lot of time drilling down on what happened,” said Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who supported the agreement.“I really felt that it was important post-TPP to make sure that the trade conversation started and stopped with how the typical American worker and the typical American consumer would be affected,” he said.What resulted, he said, was the approach in the revised North American trade deal — higher labor standards, tighter environmental regulation and new mechanisms to ensure that the rules of trade agreements can be enforced — which Democrats now describe as the bedrock of their new approach to trade.“Katherine was very much involved in all of those discussions,” Mr. Wyden said. “She’s a real coalition builder. And that was particularly important to me, because of the whole TPP period.”The Port of Oakland in California. If confirmed, Ms. Tai will make decisions on matters that divide the Democratic Party, like whether new foreign trade deals will help the United States compete globally.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York TimesSenator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat who opposed the Pacific trade deal and then worked with Mr. Wyden on the new North American pact’s rules for workers, said the Democratic Party had coalesced around this new policy of strong and enforceable trade rules.“That is a new policy for a Democratic administration, for sure,” he said. “But it’s because the Democratic Party en masse, that’s where we are.”Mr. Brown has fought with presidents of his own party about trade in the past, “including some not very nice exchanges,” he said. “I’ve fought with their trade representatives, and this is absolutely a different era.”“You will have trade policy that will actually work for workers,” he said.The Biden administration has gone to great lengths to cement its ties with congressional Democrats who are influential on trade. In addition to Ms. Tai’s nomination, it has recruited key staff members for the trade representative’s office from both Mr. Wyden’s and Mr. Brown’s offices. It has also hired former employees of Democratic representatives like Suzan DelBene of Washington, Jimmy Gomez of California and John Lewis of Georgia.But that does not mean Mr. Biden’s trade policy will be without dispute. Despite strong ties to congressional Democrats and labor unions, the administration will still have to balance the concerns of other factions, like big tech companies that are important donors and foreign policy experts who see freer trade as a way to shore up America’s position in the multilateral system. Those positions could be difficult to reconcile, trade experts say.Some have also questioned how much influence Ms. Tai might have on matters like China and tariffs, given that she is a relative newcomer to the administration. Mr. Biden has appointed several old contacts to his foreign policy team who have worked closely with him for years, including Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken; Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser; and Kurt Campbell, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia.But Ms. Tai’s supporters say she will probably be an influential voice on trade given her deep expertise and understanding of trade policy. If confirmed, Ms. Tai would be the first Asian-American and woman of color to serve as the U.S. trade representative. Ms. Tai’s parents were born in China and moved to Taiwan before immigrating to the United States, where they worked as government scientists.Ms. Tai, who was born in Connecticut, speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese and lived and worked in China as a teaching fellow in the late 1990s. She received a B.A. from Yale and a law degree from Harvard, and went on to work as an associate for several Washington law firms and a clerk for two district judges.From 2007 to 2014, Ms. Tai worked for the Office of the United States Trade Representative, where she successfully prosecuted several cases on Chinese trade practices at the World Trade Organization, including a challenge to China’s curbs on exports of rare earth minerals.When she was hired, the office was in the middle of trying to parse a particular Chinese legal measure and gave it to Ms. Tai to translate as part of her interview, said Claire Reade, a former assistant trade representative for China affairs who is now a senior counsel at Arnold & Porter. “We got a second expert opinion free of charge,” she said.In the Obama administration, and in her work negotiating a consensus on the North American trade deal, Ms. Tai displayed a range of skills that will help her succeed as the trade representative, Ms. Reade said — leadership and initiative, the political and diplomatic skills to navigate the interagency process of government, a good instinct for reading people and a wide grasp of complex trade matters.“She really in her work has gone through hellfire and has come out the other side — which means, as I say, she’s not to be underestimated,” Ms. Reade said.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story 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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    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