NYC is using Biden’s stimulus to support taxi drivers, the homeless, and give artists $5,000 checks

Taxi cabs drive through streets of Manhattan, NYC
  • NYC detailed plans to spend the $5.9 billion it received from Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
  • Those plans include giving artists $5,000 checks, supporting the homeless, and funding taxi drivers.
  • States have been slow to distribute other elements of Biden’s stimulus aid, like rental relief.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

New York City received more aid than any other city in the country from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan. It plans to allocate those stimulus funds to a range of areas, including giving some lucky artists $5,000 and working to end homelessness.

Last week, NYC released a 70-page report detailing its plans to use the $5.9 billion in stimulus funds it received from Biden. Those plans include a program that provides $5,000 grants to 1,800 artists who suffered financially during the pandemic, a $65 million relief fund for taxi medallion owners, and $125 million to support homeless people in the city, among other things.

The report noted that these measures are “just the beginning,” and the city’s top priority remains getting every resident vaccinated for COVID-19, and the detailed plans only include those that are funded from Biden’s stimulus.

“It is not intended to serve as a comprehensive report on the City’s recovery efforts,” the report said. “The City’s decisions to invest these funds now will help keep New Yorkers safe, restart the economy, rebuild the tax base, increase equity, and enable greater economic growth in future years.”

Other plans included $1.5 billion to increase employment and support small businesses, and $52.5 million to bring NYC’s tourism back to pre-pandemic levels.

Insider reported in March that after Biden signed his stimulus plan into law, of the $350 billion in state and local aid, $22.5 billion of it was divided evenly between all states and the District of Columbia, and the remaining funds were allocated based on unemployment numbers. That meant that New York, along with California and Texas, were on top of the list for that aid.

But since states received stimulus aid, a number of them have been slow to actually get the aid to residents who need it. For example, Insider reported in July that while Biden set aside $50 billion to give to renters facing eviction during the pandemic, only 4% of that aid had gone out because the distribution of that aid was under the control of the states. $8.5 billion for medical care in rural areas also has yet to be spent as the Delta variant surges and COVID-19 cases rise.

NYC plans to allocated $1.45 billion extend its vaccination campaign and improve testing for the virus.

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USDA says it’ll continue to fight to pay off loans for Black farmers despite lawsuit on behalf of white farmers

organic farmers working
  • A federal judge halted a program aimed at forgiving the loans of Black farmers.
  • The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty waged a lawsuit against the program in April.
  • The lawsuit on behalf of white farmers claimed the program was discriminatory.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Department of Agriculture promised it would start paying off the loans of Black and other minority farmers this month before a Wisconsin federal judge halted the program on Thursday.

US District Judge William Griesbach issued a temporary restraining order suspending the program because of a lawsuit by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative group based in Milwaukee, who filed the suit on behalf of white farmers who said it was discriminatory towards them, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden in March set aside $4 billion toward debt relief for socially disadvantaged farmers to pay off burdensome debts. It would pay up to 120% of direct or guaranteed farm loan balances for Black, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian American, or Pacific Islander farmers.

“This is a big deal for us,” John Boyd, Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association, told CBS MoneyWatch in March. “We see this as a great opportunity to help thousands.”

The program, however, was opposed by 49 Republican senators.

USDA did not respond to Insider’s request for comment at the time of publication but officials told The Washington Post that 17,000 farmers of color qualify for this assistance so far and vowed to defend their efforts in court.

“We respectfully disagree with this temporary order and USDA will continue to forcefully defend our ability to carry out this act of Congress and deliver debt relief to socially disadvantaged borrowers,” Matt Herrick, USDA director of communications, told The Post. “When the temporary order is lifted, USDA will be prepared to provide the debt relief authorized by Congress.”

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The GOP said enhanced unemployment benefits were stopping folks from taking jobs. The US saw sharp payroll growth last month anyway.

A help wanted sign is posted at a taco stand in Solana Beach, California, U.S., July 17, 2017.   REUTERS/Mike Blake
  • Republicans nationwide are ending unemployment benefits early under the argument they disincentivize returns to work.
  • While the cuts haven’t yet gone into effect, payrolls still sharply increased in May, while the unemployment rate declined more than expected.
  • A range in factors could be contributing to the labor shortage, including pandemic health concerns.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Republicans in 25 states are cutting enhanced unemployment benefits early under the argument that the additional measures discourage people from re-entering the workforce.

But the May jobs report released on Friday, which saw 559,000 payrolls added – a sharp increase from April – and a bigger-than-expected drop in the unemployment rate, suggests the labor-market recovery is accelerating just fine on its own.

After all, none of the GOP-backed enhanced-UI cuts have even gone into effect yet.

Calls from the GOP to cut enhanced UI grew louder after April’s jobs report, which saw a shocking drop in new payroll additions that defied all economist forecasts. Upon seeing that, Republicans blamed the enhanced measures for disincentivizing work, which prompted a growing number of GOP-led states to end them.

On Friday, despite the acceleration of payroll additions from April’s numbers and lower-than-expected unemployment, some members of the GOP were still quick to brand the jobs report as a miss.

Republicans and businesspeople have been critizing expanded UI – which was inserted into March 2020’s CARES Act by Democrats in the House – since the pandemic first hit in 2020. The US Chamber of Commerce quickly called for its cancellation in the wake of the April jobs numbers.

But Democrats have disagreed with that assessment. Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote on Twitter in April that we “don’t need to end $300 a week in emergency unemployment benefits that workers desperately need. We need to end starvation wages in America. If $300 a week is preventing employers from hiring low-wage workers there’s a simple solution: Raise your wages. Pay decent benefits.”

Some Democrats are even pushing for continued unemployment benefits tied to economic activity beyond the pandemic, but Biden said in a speech on Friday that while the benefits have been effective thus far, “it makes sense” for them to expire in September.

“A temporary boost in unemployment benefits that we enacted helped people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and who still may be in the process of getting vaccinated,” the president said in brief remarks following the May jobs report. “But it’s going to expire in 90 days – it makes sense it expires in 90 days.”

And while Republicans largely blame unemployment benefits for discouraging work, a JPMorgan note last week wrote that ending the benefits early is “tied to politics, not economics,” and Insider previously reported that there are a range of factors that could be preventing people from returning to work, like COVID-related concerns and lack of childcare.

So given that unemployment benefits haven’t ended yet, and payrolls were still added in May, the benefits might not be as big a disincentive as Republicans think, and experts are optimistic that the labor shortage should fade by the fall.

“The supply-demand mismatches in the labor market are likely to be temporary, and I expect to see further progress on employment in coming months,” the Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard said in a Tuesday speech.

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Only half of rural voters know that Democrats voted to send them stimulus checks, new poll finds

biden stimulus hurdles
President Joe Biden.

  • A poll conducted by a rural super PAC found only half of rural voters credit Democrats with stimulus checks.
  • This is notable given that not a single Republican voted for Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus.
  • A persistent feature of American politics is voters’ failure to understand government’s role in their lives.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Americans have so far received three stimulus checks. The first two were distributed under President Donald Trump’s watch and not a single Republican voted for the third round, and yet, only half of rural voters are giving Democrats the credit.

A poll conducted by Rural Objective PAC – a super PAC that works to build support for Democrats in rural areas – found that 50% of voters in rural areas associate providing COVID-19 stimulus checks directly to American families with the Democratic Party, while 32% associated the payments with Republicans, 11% with neither party, and 7% weren’t sure.

“We’re not connecting with these voters, even if we have great policy,” JD Scholten, the executive director of the Rural Objective PAC, told Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman of The Washington Post, which previously reported on the poll’s findings.

The poll surveyed 2,149 voters in nine battleground states – Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin – and while 68% of those voters support stimulus checks, it’s clear that Democrats aren’t getting credit for a cornerstone of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

The majority of rural voters did associate Democrats with extended unemployment benefits and state aid, though, and even as Democrats are calling for recurring stimulus aid, voters are not associating the already provided aid with Democrats. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan passed using budget reconciliation without a single Republican voting for the plan, which included $1,200 checks.

It’s true that the first two checks occurred under Trump, since he signed a $1,400 check and a $600 check into law as part of his pandemic aid efforts, although he signed both of those while Democrats controlled the House under Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Some Democratic lawmakers are also calling to make stimulus checks permanent – something that has received broad support from both Republican and Democratic voters given that it would cut the number of Americans in poverty in 2021 from 44 million to 16 million.

Twenty-one Democratic senators urged Biden in a letter to include recurring direct payments in his $4 trillion infrastructure plan and said that “a single direct payment will not last long for most families, and we are worried about the cliff facing unemployed workers when the unemployment insurance extensions expire on September 6.”

But voters not knowing who to credit for certain policies is nothing new. When former President Barack Obama was attempting to reform the healthcare system over a decade ago, many voters don’t want the government to interfere with their Medicare when Medicare is, in fact, a government-run program.

“I got a letter the other day from a woman. She said, ‘I don’t want government-run health care. I don’t want socialized medicine. And don’t touch my Medicare,'” President Barack Obama said at an AARP-hosted town hall on healthcare in 2009. “I wanted to say, you know, that’s what Medicare is: a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with.”

The Washington Post separately reported in 2009 that a rural voter told South Carolina Rep. Robert Inglis to “keep your government hands off my Medicare,” to which Inglis had to explain to the voter that his healthcare was provided by the government.

As Scholten told the Post, if there’s one thing that Democrats could use to win support of rural America, it would be direct payments.

“This was one of the biggest investments we’ve seen in rural America since the New Deal,” Scholten told Sargent and Waldman. “It’s good policy. It should be good politics, too, but right now Democrats aren’t taking advantage of it.”

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Move aside, hot vax summer. Biden is bringing hot tax summer to the US.

Felipe Castro holds a sign advertising a tax-preparation office for people who still need help completing their taxes before the IRS deadline on April 14, 2010, in Miami.
Felipe Castro holds a sign advertising a tax-preparation office for people who still need help completing their taxes before the IRS deadline on April 14, 2010, in Miami.

  • This summer everyone in Washington will be talking about taxes, while parents will get a tax credit.
  • Biden wants to raise taxes to pay for a huge infrastructure bill that may be ready in July.
  • Meanwhile, millions of American parents will start getting checks from Biden’s expanded tax credit.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

You’ve probably heard that it’s hot vax summer. Vaccination rates have climbed, mask mandates are lifting, and Americans are slowly starting to venture into the first semblance of the After Times. In anticipation of the US fully reopening, cooped-up Americans are buying new going-out clothes and getting ready for the intimacy they put on pause. Even brands are getting thirsty.

But another thing will be heating up this summer: tax policy. President Joe Biden has already shepherded a law through Congress that will change the tax code (for a few years) to send monthly checks to American families, and he’s hard at work on another that would raise taxes on corporations and families earning more than $400,000 a year.

The tax-credit checks will start going out in July, just when Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to deliver Biden his infrastructure bill in the House.

The stakes are scorchingly high, because despite the reopening economy, the pandemic exacerbated preexisting inequalities, while millions of Americans remain unemployed and April’s surprisingly dismal jobs report showed an uneven labor-force recovery.

Enter the hot tax summer.

Biden wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations to offset massive infrastructure spending

Some of the country’s highest earners will see tax increases if Biden gets his way. He’s proposed increasing the income tax rate to 39.6% for Americans earning over $400,000, and raising the capital gains rate to the same level.

That increase – targeted only at Americans earning $1 million or more – would hit wealthy investors who get the bulk of their income from assets like stocks. The capital gains rate is generally lower than the rate that income is taxed at. As Insider’s Liz Knueven reported, the change would affect just about 0.4% of American taxpayers.

Overall, only the top 1% of filers would be affected and have to pay $100,000 more a year in taxes.

“This is about making the average multimillionaire pay just a fair share,” Biden said in a fiery speech defending the increases. “It’s not going to affect their standard of living a little bit.”

Significantly, Biden also wants to close up some tax-code loopholes and to ramp up tax enforcement on the wealthiest American, who have been found to hide billions in income from the IRS. The IRS estimates that there’s a tax gap of $441 billion a year. But Charles Rettig, the agency’s commissioner, has told Congress that the number could actually be over $1 trillion.

The gap between taxes owed and taxes paid could grow only if left untouched, according to the Department of Treasury. Treasury estimates that Biden’s proposed $80 billion investment in the IRS could bring in an additional $700 billion over 10 years. That would still leave hundreds of billions in taxes going uncollected each year, as Insider’s Ayelet Sheffey reported.

Biden’s also proposed raising taxes on corporations, aiming to bring the corporate tax rate up to 28% from 21%, though it will likely end up closer to the international average rate of 25%.

Meanwhile, an expanded tax credit will start putting checks into families’ pockets

Regardless of what happens with the infrastructure negotiations, many Americans will start feeling the effects of new Biden tax policies this summer.

Beginning July 15, families will start receiving monthly checks of up $300 from the IRS. Every 15th of the month for the next year – unless it falls on a holiday – checks will come. Those checks come from the expansion of the child tax credit, which was revamped under Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

One of Biden’s proposals in the American Families Plan is extending those checks through 2025 (many Democrats want to make them permanent). The checks are, as Insider’s Aria Bendix reported, essentially akin to basic income, and most children in the United States are set to benefit from then.

Low-earning Americans will also see an income boost from the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, which subsidizes wages. According to an analysis from the left-leaning Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, over 17 million adults will now be eligible for an expanded subsidy.

Biden’s proposed tax increases are already seeing pushback. Some businesses have come out against the corporate increase, and there’s likely to be a lot of back and forth over what can and cannot be included in Biden’s two-pronged infrastructure package.

As Politico reported, lobbyists and executives think that they’ll be able to kill off many of the tax hikes that the president is putting forward. That could put some of Biden’s promises in jeopardy.

So while it’s not clear what, exactly, taxes will look like on the other side of all of this, they’re already in the spotlight – and they’ll probably only become a hotter topic as the temperature goes up this summer.

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Biden said he’d cut down on unemployment benefits, but he really might reinstate a pre-pandemic job-seeking policy

President Joe Biden.

  • Biden is pushing states to reinstate job-seeking requirements for people to stay on unemployment.
  • “Anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job,” he said.
  • It comes as the GOP ramps up criticism that unemployment aid is dissuading people from seeking jobs.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden said in a speech on Monday that Americans receiving unemployment benefits must either take a job that is “suitable” or lose their benefits, as he encouraged states to reinstate a pre-pandemic policy of requiring people to search for work.

“We’re going to make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits,” Biden said at the White House.

According to a White House fact sheet released after the speech, the Department of Labor will “reaffirm longstanding” unemployment-insurance requirements to ensure that states, workers, and employers understand the rules regarding the benefits.

The Department of Labor will also issue a letter to states reaffirming that people receiving benefits cannot turn down a suitable job to continue receiving their benefits.

Experts said these job-seeking guidelines were in place before the pandemic, and states scrapped them last year as the economy crashed, which caused a surge in unemployment. While the economic situation is improving, those experts said factors like a lack of childcare and school closures were keeping some people out of the workforce.

“On the whole, the Biden Administration is moving to return UI slowly like the rest of the economy to its” pre-pandemic rules, Andrew Stettner, an unemployment expert at the Century Foundation, said in emailed comments to Insider.

“Advocates are concerned that policy makers ensure that no workers are cut of off benefits because they cannot find affordable child care, and the reinstatement of work search requirements raises the stakes for this type of protections,” he added.

This announcement came after a jobs report last week that fell significantly short of expectations, with Republican lawmakers casting the blame on too-generous unemployment benefits disincentivizing Americans from returning to work.

While Biden said in his speech that “we don’t see much evidence” of benefits hurting job growth, his remarks suggested he was listening to GOP criticism on the issue.

Since the start of the pandemic, Republicans and businesspeople have criticized expanded unemployment insurance – inserted into March 2020’s CARES Act by Democrats in the House – as too generous. While the $600 federal unemployment addition to weekly benefits expired last year, Congress reinstated it in December at $300 a week, which Biden extended through September 6 as part of the stimulus law in March.

The US Chamber of Commerce called for an end to the benefits in the wake of the April jobs numbers, but Democrats like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said on Twitter that “workers desperately need” the benefits.

While states waived their unemployment-benefits work requirements at the start of the pandemic, 39 of them have already started, or are planning to, reimpose them.

Biden said: “We’ll insist that the law is followed with respect to benefits, but we’re not going to turn our backs on our fellow Americans.”

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Some GOP states are moving to end federal unemployment benefits, which could impact at least 276,000 workers

People wait on line to file for unemployment in Fayetteville, Arkansas, April 6, 2020.
People wait on line to file for unemployment in Fayetteville, Arkansas, April 6, 2020.

  • Some GOP-led states are opting to end expanded unemployment benefits early to entice workers back.
  • The move could affect the finances of at least 276,000 people, an unemployment expert told Insider.
  • Disparate state employment systems may have already caused inequities, especially for Black workers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

At least 276,000 workers are at risk of losing federal unemployment benefits in GOP-led states.

Several states are moving to cut expanded unemployment insurance in an effort to push those collecting jobless benefits to return to work.

The move comes as April’s surprisingly dismal jobs report showed just a fraction of anticipated jobs returning, and anecdotal evidence of (generally low-paying) companies having difficulty hiring enough workers to reopen in a fuller capacity.

South Carolina, Montana, and Arkansas are ending their participation in federal assistance programs for the unemployed in late June. They are chiefly targeting the $300 federal unemployment supplement, a key part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus law which expires on Labor Day.

Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte in Montana slammed the enhanced unemployment insurance on Friday, calling it “no-work bonuses” in a tweet. Prior to the jobs report, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster – another GOP member – said the state will stop its participation in federal unemployment by the end of June.

“This labor shortage is being created in large part by the supplemental unemployment payments that the federal government provides claimants on top of their state unemployment benefits,” McMaster wrote.

greg gianforte
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican.

‘They’re canceling federal pandemic benefits’

“They’re not just taking away the $300 supplement, they’re canceling federal pandemic benefits,” Andrew Stettner, an unemployment expert at the Century Foundation, told Insider.

“Those who are on PUA and PEUC, their benefits will get cancelled,” he said, referring to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program providing benefits to gig workers and contractors, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which doles out aid to the long-term unemployed.

Stettner calculated that at least 276,000 people could be affected in the states slashing aid two months before it is set to expire, though the amount is likely to grow as other GOP-led states like Indiana suggest they could soon follow suit.

Other states are reinstating job-searching requirements that were waived during the pandemic. Those include Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, The Associated Press reported.

Individual states rolling back federal unemployment benefits could have a disproportionate impact on marginalized workers. A report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI) looked at how much of the UI disbursed in each state was from federal benefits. The EPI report notes that this could impact workers along racial lines, since states where Black Americans make up a larger share of the population tend to have weaker UI benefits.

In South Carolina, for instance, around 76% of total UI came from federal programs in the fourth quarter of 2020. Arkansas and Montana both leaned heavily on federal benefits in disbursement of UI benefits, with federal UI making up 74.7% and 68.7% of their total disbursed benefits, respectively.

“The US economy is still down 8.2 million jobs from what we had prior to the pandemic – and if you account for people newly entering the workforce since then, we are down over 11 million jobs,” David Cooper, a senior economic analyst at EPI, said in an email to Insider. “So, the economy is simply not at a place where we should be cutting back UI benefits. There are far more people looking for work and unable to find it than there are employers unable to fill vacancies, and pulling back on UI will only slow down the recovery.”

President Joe Biden doubled down on the need for unemployed workers to get back to work in a Monday address, saying “we’re going to make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits.” But, he noted, COVID-19 exceptions are still in place “so that people aren’t forced to choose between their basic safety and a paycheck.”

Biden’s statements don’t amount to a new policy change from his administration, therefore they only underscore steps already on the books that states can take to encourage people to jump back into the workforce.

But, Biden said, his father used to tell him that a job is more than a paycheck.

“I think that people who claim Americans won’t work, even if they find a good and fair opportunity, underestimate the American people,” Biden added. “So we’ll insist that the law is followed with respect to benefits, but we’re not going to turn our backs on our fellow Americans; 22 million people lost for jobs in this pandemic through no fault of their own.”

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How April’s dismal jobs report is setting the stage for Biden’s $4 trillion economic fight with the GOP

Joe Biden sad
President Joe Biden speaks about the April jobs report in the White House on Friday.

  • Republicans and Democrats drew sharply different conclusions about the April jobs report.
  • Democrats used it to bolster a case for massive infrastructure spending on issues like childcare.
  • The GOP wants to slam on the spending brakes, saying stimulus benefits are setting back job growth.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In some ways, the April jobs report resembled an optical illusion, with people making differing observations from a dataset that didn’t fit into a clean narrative.

In this case, Democrats and Republicans came to opposite conclusions about the report and what it means for the way forward in healing an economy battered by the pandemic.

The Friday report showed the economy recovered 266,000 jobs, a smaller amount defying expectations of a massive job surge on the back of government stimulus dollars, increased vaccinations, and easing restrictions. Economists had forecasted at least 1 million regained jobs.

In response, the GOP is demanding to end parts of President Joe Biden’s stimulus and calling for the government to slam the brakes on its spending. Democrats instead urged the passage of Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure plans, viewing the lackluster report as another pillar in their argument that more spending, in part on childcare, would accelerate the recovery.

It sets the stage between the parties for a multitrillion-dollar fight on infrastructure, jobs, and families that will take up much of the White House’s time over the next few months.

The president argued for patience with his economic agenda on Friday. He said “more help is needed” and mounted a robust defense of his $1.9 trillion stimulus, which provided $1,400 direct payments and a $300-per-week federal unemployment benefit.

“When we passed the American Rescue Plan, I want to remind everybody, it was designed to help us over the course of a year – not 60 days – a year,” Biden said. “We never thought that after the first 50 or 60 days, everything would be fine.”

He flatly rejected the argument from Republicans and business groups that federal jobless aid has been sidelining people from the workforce, saying that was “nothing measurable.”

“We’re still digging out of an economic collapse that cost us 22 million jobs,” Biden said. “Let’s keep our eye on the ball.”

Kevin Brady
Rep. Kevin Brady, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Democrats double down, Republicans pounce

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Congress to move immediately on Biden’s plans, and pointed to “women and working parents” being hit hardest in the pandemic. The number of women who held jobs fell in April, as reported by Insider’s Juliana Kaplan and Madison Hoff.

“The evidence is clear that the economy demands urgent action, and Congress will not be deterred or delayed from delivering transformational investments,” she said in a statement.

Republicans had already lined up against Biden’s plans, criticizing the proposed tax hikes on large firms and wealthy Americans as a future anchor on the economy. They pounced on the report in a fresh sign of their hardening resistance.

The GOP swung at Biden’s handling of the economy, arguing that the jobless aid was disincentivizing people from searching for a new job.

“This is a stunning economic setback, and unequivocal proof that President Biden is sabotaging our jobs recovery with promises of higher taxes and regulation on local businesses that discourage hiring and drive jobs overseas,” Rep. Kevin Brady, ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.

He also contended that jobless aid was disincentivizing people from returning to work. The argument mirrored one made by the Chamber of Commerce, an influential business group which on Friday called for an end to the $300 federal unemployment benefit.

Many economists have long disputed that federal jobless aid has kept people from returning to work. Unemployment claims has steadily fallen over the past month. They tend to cite other factors like the lack of available childcare and school closures.

Those burdens have fallen more on women, causing 2 million women to leave the workforce in the past year. Still, experts say the US will regain its economic footing eventually, though the nation faces a rocky path ahead.

“We’re gonna see pockets of strength, pockets of weakness, areas of overheating, areas where it is uncool – it’s going to be complicated and messy,” Jason Furman, a former top economist to President Barack Obama, told Insider in an interview. “But I think hopefully all moving in the right direction.”

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Jen Psaki says the IRS letter sent to Americans about stimulus checks was ‘not intended to make it about’ Biden

white house press secretary jen psaki
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary.

  • Jen Psaki defended a letter President Joe Biden sent to Americans about stimulus checks.
  • The letter was “not intended to make it about” Biden, the White House press secretary said.
  • Trump sent a similar letter to Americans when stimulus checks went out during his administration.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, on Friday defended a letter that President Joe Biden sent to tens of millions of Americans who received a third round of COVID-19 stimulus checks this spring.

The letter, mailed by the Internal Revenue Service and signed by the president, touts his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was passed in March, and highlights key provisions of the bill, including $1,400 direct payments, funding for small businesses, and an expanded child tax credit.

“A key part of the American Rescue Plan is direct payments of $1,400 per person for most American households,” Biden wrote in the letter obtained by Insider. “This fulfills a promise I made to you, and will help get Americans through the crisis.”

The letter is “pretty standard” and was “not intended to make it about him,” Psaki told reporters during a press conference on Friday. “It’s about the American people.”

Psaki said the letter “goes out with physical checks.” But people who got the federal aid through direct deposit have also received the letter. The IRS said all recipients of the third payment will get the letter, which “should be kept with tax year 2021 records.”

Psaki’s comments come after some have criticized the letter as an act of self-promotion and compared Biden’s move to that of his predecessor, President Donald Trump, who sent a similar IRS letter to Americans about coronavirus stimulus checks enacted during his administration.

Biden’s letter appears identical in format to the one Trump sent last spring. Both letters were mailed by the IRS, displayed the White House letterhead, are signed by the president, and addressed to “My fellow American.”

But Biden did not include his signature directly on the stimulus checks, which Trump did – a decision that may have delayed their delivery to the public. “We didn’t have [Biden] sign the checks because we were concerned about any impact that would have on delaying them going out to the public,” Psaki reiterated on Friday.

At the time, Trump’s letter prompted criticism that he was politicizing the IRS for his benefit. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group, called Trump’s letter “self-aggrandizing.”

The organization reacted negatively to Biden’s letter as well.

“This trend toward presidents sending self-serving signed letters at taxpayer expense is unfortunate regardless of who does it,” said Noah Bookbinder, CREW’s president. “I hope that President Biden will not learn the wrong lessons from his predecessor and continue this kind of tactic.”

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The Biden administration opened a new relief fund for restaurants. 186,200 applied in 2 days.

biden burgers
President Joe Biden.

  • A $28.6 billion program designed to help restaurants received over 186,000 in its first two days.
  • The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was established as part of the American Rescue Plan.
  • “Our restaurants need a seat at the table,” President Joe Biden said in an address.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A $28.6 billion restaurant aid program received 186,200 applications in its first two days, according to the White House.

Bars, restaurants, and other eligible businesses could start applying for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) on May 3. The initiative is part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, and provides grants of up to $10 million for businesses that lost revenue in 2020.

More than $9 billion of the program’s funds were set aside for businesses that made under $500,000 in 2019; those businesses represent 61,700 of applicants so far.

For its first 21 days, the program will prioritize applications from small businesses owned by women, veterans, and those who are “socially and economically disadvantaged.” According to the White House, 97,600 applications came from those groups.

In a Wednesday address, Biden said it looks like about 100,000 restaurants and other eligible businesses will be able to receive relief, and he wrote a similar statement on Twitter.

As Insider’s Jennifer Ortakales Dawkins reported, businesses will be able to use their funds on everything from rent to payroll to paid sick leave.

“Right now, only about a quarter of the restaurant owners expect to return to normal operations in the next six months. We can do much better than that with the American Rescue Plan,” Biden said.

As the economy has reopened, the ailing leisure, hospitality, and retail industries have seen employment rebound. A third of March’s surprisingly robust job additions – 916,000 nonfarm payroll jobs – were in those industries. Small businesses have also been increasingly opening up as vaccinations ramp up and restrictions lift in many areas.

However, small businesses in the service sector have seen a bleaker outlook: A new analysis from the New York Federal Reserve‘s Liberty Street Economics of about 100,000 such businesses found that 35% of businesses active prior to the pandemic remain closed. Just about 4% of workers laid off from those closed businesses will be rehired, according to the analysis, and likely only 3% of those businesses will actually reopen.

“We’re relying on restaurants to play a big role in our recovery,” Biden said. “We want our economy to recover in a way that deals everyone in and our restaurants need a seat at the table – no pun intended.”

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