Legislative Update, November 23, 2020
Jobless Claims Increase: For the week ending November 14, initial unemployment claims increased by 31,000 to 742,000. It was the first increase in five weeks. Economists underestimated the number in the forecast of 707,000 claims. According to the Financial Times, some 20.3 million people are currently receiving unemployment benefits in some form when traditional state benefits, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA) and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) are taken into account. PUA provides unemployment payments to individuals who are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits such as the self-employed, independent contractors, and individuals with limited work histories. PEUC provides unemployment insurance payments to individuals who have exhausted who have exhausted state unemployment insurance benefits. Both programs were authorized in the CARES Act and expire on December 31. Absent a new round of stimulus and pandemic relief, the cessation of benefits and the lack of the already expired enhanced unemployment benefits threaten to further slow consumer spending and impact the nascent economic recovery. Business leaders such as Jaimie Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase and leading economists such as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell have been calling for a new stimulus bill, citing concerns about the negative economic consequences of not enacting one.
Negotiations on Omnibus Spending Bill Ongoing: Staff for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are meeting to negotiate a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill which would combine all 12 FY 2021 appropriations bills and fund the federal government through September 30, 2021 (the end of FY 2021). They are working to reach consensus and pass a bill before December 11. On September 30 of this year, Congress and the administration enacted a continuing resolution funding the government at FY 2020 levels through December 11. The alternatives to the spending bill are another continuing resolution funding the federal government at FY 2020 levels into early next year or an outright government shutdown. The Hill reports that the Trump Administration has not taken a shutdown off the table.
State Minimum Wage Legislation Circulating: Legislation is reportedly being circulated for introduction in the 151st General Assembly, which begins in January which would increase Delaware’s minimum wage to $11 per hour in 2022 and then to $15 per hour, in one-dollar increments over four years. The legislation would also index future increases in the minimum wage to the consumer price index for all urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W). The New Castle County Chamber of Commerce will be opposing the legislation, in part due to the need to aid businesses in recovering from the pandemic recession and in part due to the Chamber’s opposition to indexing the minimum wage.