Senate parliamentarian strikes down minimum wage hike in latest COVID-19 relief bill – YouTube

Senate parliamentarian strikes down minimum wage hike in latest COVID-19 relief bill

Progressives are willing to accept defeat on the minimum wage for now and vote for President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package. But they’re channeling their energy into a renewed push to kill the filibuster.

One day after the Senate parliamentarian effectively forced a $15 minimum wage hike out of Democrats’ coronavirus relief package, leading liberal activists are racing to turn their bitter setback into opportunity. The need to sacrifice a key Biden priority in order to ensure the Covid aid bill can pass the Senate with a simple majority has handed progressive lawmakers and their allied groups a new talking point in their long-running quest to eliminate the legislative filibuster.

Source: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/26/progressives-minimum-wage-defeat-471772

Texas’s deregulated electricity market raised consumer costs by $28B: WSJ | TheHill

The analysis found that consumers purchasing power from the deregulated electricity market have paid significantly more than state residents whose sources were traditional electric utilities.

The report comes after widespread power outages in Texas that left millions of residents without power for days amid freezing temperatures. That was followed by many households receiving sky-high electricity bills, with warnings from experts that consumers are likely to be hit with covering the costs for grid upgrades.

The decision to have a deregulated electricity market stems back to 1999 when legislation was first introduced to deregulate the market in Texas. Supporters of the bill said it would create more competition in the sector and lower prices for consumers.

However, households under the deregulated market paid rates 13 percent higher than the nationwide average from 2004 to 2019, according to the Journal. Those who used traditional utilities in Texas paid 8 percent less than the national average during that time frame.

The data used for the analysis came from the federal Energy Information Administration.

Although deregulation in Texas was designed to allow for more competition, mergers in the industry have left Texans with two main retail electricity providers.

Source: Texas’s deregulated electricity market raised consumer costs by $28B: WSJ | TheHill

$15 minimum wage won’t cover living costs for many Americans

  • Democrats want a $15 minimum wage policy to be included in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan.
  • A $15 hourly pay scale would more than double the current $7.25 federal minimum wage.
  • It still wouldn’t offer a living wage to low-paid single adults and families in many areas, according to a CNBC analysis of state cost-of-living data.

Democrats are pushing to get a $15 federal minimum wage into President Joe Biden’s Covid relief package. For many, that pay still wouldn’t be enough.

Source: $15 minimum wage won’t cover living costs for many Americans

New rule on 401(k) rollovers takes effect, as Biden sticks with Trump-era change | Fox Business

The measure will cause many rollovers, in which hundreds of billions of dollars move annually from 401(k)s to individual retirement accounts, to be more heavily regulated. It also gives investors who feel they have been given bad rollover advice the right to file a lawsuit or arbitration claim.

Source: New rule on 401(k) rollovers takes effect, as Biden sticks with Trump-era change | Fox Business

Low-income Californians to receive new COVID stimulus checks – Los Angeles Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced Wednesday that they have agreed to provide low-income Californians a $600 state stimulus payment to help them weather financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic, part of a $9.6-billion economic recovery package that also includes $2.1 billion in grants for small businesses.

The “Golden State stimulus” payments provided under the state proposal, which will be expedited for legislative approval next week, are in addition to the $600-per-person stimulus checks already approved by Congress and would be on top of direct payments of up to $1,400 per person that have been proposed by House Democrats.

Source: Low-income Californians to receive new COVID stimulus checks – Los Angeles Times

CVS Health beats profit, revenue expectations, as it has administered more than 3 million COVID-19 vaccines – MarketWatch

Shares of CVS Health Corp. CVS, +0.83% were little changed in premarket trading Tuesday, after the drugstore and health benefits company reported fourth-quarter profit and revenue that beat expectations. Net income fell to $973 million, or 74 cents a share, from $1.75 billion, or $1.34 a share, in the year-ago period. Excluding nonrecurring items, adjusted earnings per share declined to $1.30 from $1.73, but beat the FactSet consensus of $1.24. Total revenue rose 4.0% to $69.55 billion, above the FactSet consensus of $68.73 billion. Among CVS’s business segments, all beat expectations, with pharmacy services revenue falling 1.9% to $36.36 billion amid continued price compression, retail/long-term-care revenue rising 6.6% to $24.06 billion and health care benefits revenue climbing 11.4% to $19.10 billion. For 2021, CVS expects adjusted EPS of $7.39 to $7.55, compared with the FactSet consensus of $7.54. The company said it has administered more than 3 million COVID-19 vaccines in over 40,000 long-term care facilities. The stock has gained 1.0% over the past three months, while the S&P 500 SPX, +0.47% has advanced 8.5%.Source: CVS Health beats profit, revenue expectations, as it has administered more than 3 million COVID-19 vaccines – MarketWatch

Gov. Wolf hopes to increase Pa. minimum wage to $12 by 2021, and $15 by 2027 | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

On Feb. 8, Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York) held a press conference to reaffirm his belief in increasing the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, and outlined a plan that would incrementally raise minimum wage to $15 an hour, from its current rate of $7.25 an hour.

At his press conference, Wolf emphasized that $7.25, which a press release called “embarrassingly low,” can no longer be considered a livable wage, as the cost of food, gas, housing, and other essential services have gone up. Pennsylvania’s minimum wage was last increased in 2009, when the federal minimum wage requirement increased.

“Too many essential workers are earning poverty wages while putting themselves at risk to keep our society running,” said Wolf in a press release. “They keep food on shelves, move crucial supplies, take care of our children, and support people with disabilities. And thousands of them earn poverty wages. These hardworking people deserve better. They deserve a living wage.”

Source: Gov. Wolf hopes to increase Pa. minimum wage to $12 by 2021, and $15 by 2027 | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Stimulus check: House Democrats’ plan would exclude families earning more than $200,000 – CNNPolitics

Washington (CNN)House Democrats have rejected a Republican proposal to significantly narrow eligibility for further stimulus payments and are moving forward with legislation that would provide $1,400 stimulus payments per person.

But the payments would phase out faster than earlier rounds and completely cut off individuals earning more than $100,000 and couples earning more than $200,000, according to the bill text, which the House Ways and Means Committee is set to debate Wednesday.
Under the plan put forward Monday by Chairman Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, the full payment would go to individuals earning less than $75,000 a year and married couples earning less than $150,000 — like previous stimulus checks. Joint filers would receive $2,800 plus another $1,400 per dependent.
It would not narrow eligibility as significantly as a Republican-backed proposal, which would have excluded an estimated 29 million households that received earlier payments.
The GOP plan called for smaller payments of $1,000 to individuals earning less than $40,000 a year and couples earning less than $80,000. The payments would phase out faster, cutting off individuals making more than $50,000 and couples making more than $100,000.

Source: Stimulus check: House Democrats’ plan would exclude families earning more than $200,000 – CNNPolitics

How soon new $1,400 stimulus checks and other Covid aid could arrive

  • President Joe Biden says he won’t back down from sending $1,400 direct checks.
  • A minimum wage hike could be off the table in the next relief bill.
  • As Democrats press to pass more aid quickly, a final deal could come together in March, according to one analyst.

Meanwhile, another initiative, raising the $15 per hour federal minimum wage, seems to be off the table for now. And enhanced unemployment is facing a March expiration date.The House of Representatives wants to pass the coronavirus relief bill in the next two weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said. The Senate last week approved a budget resolution that would fast-track the additional Covid relief with a 51-50 vote (with the Vice President being the tie-breaker.)

Source: How soon new $1,400 stimulus checks and other Covid aid could arrive

Progressives Democrats urge Biden to consider recurring stimulus checks – Business Insider

In a letter on Thursday, the group said Biden’s proposal of a one-time direct payment worth $1,400 would only “provide a temporary lifeline.”

  • Over 50 progressive Democrats urged President Joe Biden on Thursday to consider sending recurring stimulus checks to Americans.
  • The letter, signed by Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others, doesn’t specify an amount, but the group has previously shown support for $2,000.
  • Biden has proposed a one-time direct payment of $1,400 in his stimulus proposal.

Source: Progressives Democrats urge Biden to consider recurring stimulus checks – Business Insider

Godiva is closing or selling all of its stores in the United States – CNN

New York (CNN Business)Luxury chocolatier Godiva is getting out of the brick and mortar business.

The company is closing or selling all 128 of its brick-and-mortar stores in North America, it announced in a statement. It plans to complete the closures and sales by the end of March.
Godiva will keep its stores open across Europe, Middle East and Greater China. The company did not disclose information on how many employees would be let go because of the closures.
Less than two years ago, Godiva was planning a massive expansion by getting into the cafe business. The chocolatier opened its first cafe in the United States in New York City in April 2019 and announced that it planned on opening 10 more cafes in New York and more than 400 across the United States. It was part of a plan to open 2,000 new cafes around the world.
But that plan never came to fruition. Godiva relied heavily on mall traffic, which has been plummeting even before the pandemic. The chocolatier’s sales are largely driven by online purchases and purchases through Godiva’s grocery, club and retail partners.
This change comes during a time when Covid has hit dozens of underperforming businesses. The retail apocalypse in particular has come for restaurants, mall stores, businesses that rely on impulse shopping and luxury retailers.

Source: Godiva is closing or selling all of its stores in the United States – CNN

Third stimulus check: When could you get a $1,400 check? – CBS News

President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan proposes a third round of stimulus checks of $1,400 for most Americans. Yet while that could extend a helping hand to millions of households still suffering from the pandemic’s economic fallout, it could be months until the payments arrive, analysts say.

The price tag for the relief package, called the American Rescue Plan, is likely to face pushback from Republican lawmakers, who last year resisted Democratic efforts to pass a $2 trillion bill. Heights Securities analyst Hunter Hammond expects the ultimate package to be trimmed to $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion. But most analysts think lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will back the $1,400 direct payments, which economists view as a lifeline for many cash-strapped workers who lost their jobs or have seen their income plummet during the pandemic.

Support for another stimulus package may gain steam given several developments that point to widening economic distress as the pandemic worsens, according to Ed Mills, an analyst with investment bank Raymond James. A weaker outlook for the labor market, with a bigger-than-expected 1 million jobless claims during the first week of January, as well as record number of COVID-19 infections and deaths, could push lawmakers to support Mr. Biden’s plan for additional stimulus, analysts say.

Source: Third stimulus check: When could you get a $1,400 check? – CBS News

Student loans: Biden will extend payment deferrals until October – CNNPolitics

Washington (CNN)President-elect Joe Biden will direct the Department of Education Wednesday to extend the suspension of federal student loan payments and interest.

Borrowers will not have to make payments until October 1 at the earliest, extending the already unprecedented pause on payments by eight months.
When the economy began to shut down in response to the pandemic in March, Congress passed a sweeping relief bill that automatically suspended student loan payments and waived interest. The benefit was originally set to expire in September, but was extended by the Trump administration until January 31.
Both the pause on payments and interest waiver is automatic, but only applies to federally held loans.
That covers roughly 85% of all federal student loans, including those known as direct federal loans and PLUS loans that parents have taken out on behalf of their children. It excludes some federal loans that are guaranteed by the government but not technically held by it. Generally, those were disbursed prior to 2010.
Balances were frozen in March 2020, though borrowers are allowed to continue making payments. Those enrolled in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness payment plan will still receive credit as if they had continued paying, as long as they are still working full time for qualifying employers.

Source: Student loans: Biden will extend payment deferrals until October – CNNPolitics

Cuomo warns of tax hikes, dire cuts if feds can’t find $15B

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had one overriding message Tuesday as he delivered his annual budget address from New York’s state Capitol: If Washington doesn’t send New York $15 billion as part of a pandemic relief package, he’ll have no choice but to slash public payrolls, cut services and raise taxes on the rich.

Cuomo argued that the state is uniquely entitled to those funds because the pandemic hit New York so hard last spring and was comparatively defenseless thanks to federal government bungling.

He went one step further and threatened to pursue litigation if the federal government did not acquiesce to his ask, though officials, when asked, did not immediately say whom the state might sue or what legal arguments New York could employ.

For the moment, though, it’s uncertain whether the state will get what it is asking for, and its new budget, due at the end of March, reflects that uncertainty. “We don’t know, in short, what level of aid we will get, but the budget is dependent on that number,” he said.

The full amount would mean New York could avoid squeezing its localities out of their allotted aid, offer relief to small businesses and restaurants, focus on education and workforce issues, and get on the road to recovery, he said. Anything less, he said, would be an affront to the suffering the state experienced as one of the first to be overwhelmed by the pandemic, calling it a “2021 version of the federal government saying ‘drop dead’ to New York.”

Source: Cuomo warns of tax hikes, dire cuts if feds can’t find $15B

Pennsylvania officials respond to delay in unemployment benefits

“It’s a complete nightmare,” said a Finleyville woman. “I’m going on three weeks Wednesday without any kind of payment or anything.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry has made more than $33.1 billion in unemployment program payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Three of these programs are part of the federal CARES Act, which expired at the end of 2020. L&I urged the federal government beginning in November to extend the CARES Act as soon as possible to prevent gaps or delays in unemployment program benefits to claimants. The federal government did not complete the extension until Dec. 27, and L&I has been delayed in restarting payments for the three federal programs by the federal Department of Labor, which did not issue all of the guidance needed to ensure states are following the federal law when making payments for the federal programs until Jan. 11. L&I has prioritized restarting payments for these programs and is announcing the dates for claimants to begin filing again as soon as necessary reprogramming is complete. L&I is doing everything possible to minimize delays while working under the constraints created by the federal government.

The statuses of each active unemployment program is as follows:

STATE PERMANENT PROGRAMS:

Unemployment Compensation (UC)

  • L&I has made approximately $6.6 billion in UC payments since March 15 (the start of the pandemic).
  • Unemployment Compensation is a state program that provides up to 26 weeks of payments to eligible claimants who are able and available to work but have lost their jobs for qualifying reasons. Claimants who exhaust their 26 weeks of payments roll over to the PEUC program, and then the EB program. The program is unaffected by the federal coronavirus relief bill.
  • A small percentage of the claimants who filed for UC on Jan. 1 were affected by a glitch that caused them to not receive their payment on time. L&I rectified the issue and reissued the payments to claimants a few days later. L&I apologizes for the inconvenience caused by the delayed payment and has worked to prevent the issue from recurring. No other payment issues have been detected for UC claimants since the Jan. 1 issue.

Extended Benefits (EB)

  • L&I has made approximately $230.6 million in EB payments since March 15.
  • EB provides claimants who have exhausted their maximum number of UC and PEUC claim weeks with additional claim weeks. The number of claim weeks provided to a claimant varies depending on the claimant’s personal situation. EB is a state program that is triggered on when the unemployment rate reaches a certain threshold.
  • Because EB is a state program, it was unaffected by the expiration and extension of the federal coronavirus relief bill. Some claimants who filed EB claims on Jan. 10 did not receive their payments on time due to a programmatic glitch. The issue was identified and remedied on Jan. 16 and payments to the affected claimants were reissued on Jan. 17. L&I apologizes to these claimants for the inconvenience of the delayed payments. Other EB claimants have been receiving payments as normal.

TEMPORARY FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS:

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

  • L&I has made approximately $1.1 billion in PEUC payments since March 15.
  • PEUC provides UC claimants with a 13-week extension on their claim, with an additional 11 weeks added through the coronavirus relief bill extension, bringing the total to 24 weeks. After a claimant exhausts PEUC, they become eligible for additional weeks through the EB program. PEUC initially expired the claim week ending Dec. 26 and an extension was signed Dec. 27.
  • L&I could not begin paying the claim weeks in the PEUC extension until the federal Department of Labor provided guidance on how the federal program should be enacted by states. L&I began working on upgrading its computer system to accommodate changes made by the coronavirus relief bill extension and has completed upgrades to allow claimants who had weeks remaining on their 13 allotted weeks to begin filing for these claim weeks on Jan. 15. L&I will make an announcement when the additional 11 weeks have been added to claimants’ accounts and filing for these weeks begins.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

  • L&I has made approximately $7.1 billion in PUA payments since March 15.
  • PUA is a special unemployment program created by the federal coronavirus relief bill to assist claimants who are not typically eligible for Unemployment Compensation, such as freelancers, gig workers, and business owners. The program expired the claim week ending Dec. 26 and an extension was signed Dec. 27. The initial coronavirus relief bill provided PUA claimants 39 claim weeks and the extension provided an additional 11 weeks (50 weeks total).
  • Numerous changes, such as new identity and employment verification requirements, were added to the program in the extension by the federal government. The federal Department of Labor did not provide L&I with the necessary guidance for the changes to the PUA program until Jan. 11. L&I is working to complete reprogramming of the PUA system to accommodate these changes and has turned off claimants’ ability to file for weeks after the expiration of the original program. The ability to file for claim weeks after Dec. 26 will be added when the reprogramming is complete, and L&I will make an announcement as soon as this date is determined. Some claimants have reported seeing what they believe are errors in their PUA system dashboard, but this is due to the reprogramming and the correct amounts will be populated into claimants’ dashboards when the system is ready to accept the new claims.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)

  • L&I has made approximately $16.2 billion in FPUC payments since March 15.
  • FPUC provides an additional $300 to claimants each week they receive at least $1 in benefits from the UC, EB, PEUC or PUA programs. This payment is on top of the other program’s payment. The program previously provided $600 in additional weekly compensation but was initially eliminated when the federal government failed to extend it in summer, and then cut in half to $300 and reinstated when the federal government agreed on the coronavirus relief bill extension.
  • L&I began issuing payments on Jan. 8 after receiving the necessary guidance from the federal Department of Labor. The timing of the payments’ arrival varies based on when claimants file the claims for their other unemployment benefits and the method the claimant chose to receive their payment (checks require mailing time, financial institutions may cause delays with direct deposits, etc.), with the first claimants receiving their payments for FPUC on Jan. 12.

Claimants who have questions about their individual claim should email uchelp@pa.gov.

Source: Pennsylvania officials respond to delay in unemployment benefits

Second stimulus check: IRS says the $600 payments are now on their way. But how soon is now? – CBS News

The tax agency said it began distributing direct deposits Tuesday night, and will start mailing paper checks December 30.Millions of Americans are eagerly awaiting their second stimulus checks of $600 for each eligible adult and child. The IRS on Tuesday said it had started to distribute the checks via direct deposit that evening, a process that will extend into next week.

Source: Second stimulus check: IRS says the $600 payments are now on their way. But how soon is now? – CBS News

Minimum wage increase, new sick leave law in effect in NY

ALBANY, N.Y. — The minimum wage is going up in New York in 2021, and a new sick leave law is coming into effect.

Employees at most businesses can start using sick days that the new law allowed them to start accruing in September.

The rate is one hour for every 30 hours worked. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office says about 1.3 million New Yorkers didn’t have access to paid sick leave before the law.

Also, the hourly minimum wage is now $14 an hour in Long Island and Westchester and $12.50 in the rest of the state.

Source: Minimum wage increase, new sick leave law in effect in NY