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NCA’s Washington Weekly Update 6-7-21

Situational Awareness
The Senate is in session this week and the House is conducting Committee business. The Senate will resume debate on legislation to boost U.S. competition with China through $100 billion in research and development and $52 billion in emergency spending for semiconductor manufacturing. The Senate will also continue work on nominations.

Mandatory Vaccinations Under Fire
Requiring employees to be vaccinated has come under scrutiny with multiple lawsuits having been filed in Texas, California, North Carolina and New Mexico. Notably, the Texas lawsuit has been filed against Houston Methodist Hospital arguing its vaccination requirement is not legal because they are only authorized for emergency use.

Weekly Unemployment Bonus Payments Losing Luster
Roughly 4 million unemployed workers in 25 states will see their weekly pandemic unemployment assistance of $300 per week cut off soon in a bid to encourage people to return to the workplace. Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Missouri will eliminate the extra unemployment assistance as early as this week. In Washington, there has been increasing debate about whether the additional weekly benefit actually discourages workers from returning to work and the debate breaks down largely on party lines. Republicans argue employers are increasing wages to attract workers, but they can’t compete with government benefits. Democrats argue the assistance is needed because many are not able to return due to a lack of childcare or health concerns. Legislation has been introduced in the House that would reinstate the work-search requirements for unemployment assistance, which were suspended during the pandemic.

NCA was contacted by the representative sponsoring the legislation and have signaled our support for the bill. H.R. 3148, the “Help Wanted Act,” introduced by Congressman Chris Jacobs (R-N.Y.), requires states to restore work search requirements in order for individuals to continue receiving and distributing enhanced unemployment benefits, strikes the CARES Act provision that allows individuals to collect unemployment if they voluntarily left their job, and clarifies that individuals may not collect pandemic unemployment assistance if they decline work.

State Budgets Robust Despite Fear of COVID-19 Impact
When the pandemic gripped the nation there was serious concern about the impact widespread shutdowns would have on state and local revenues collected through income and sales taxes. Last summer there were indeed dire predictions about state budget shortfalls in many states, but the ability of higher-income workers to continue working remotely, a resurgence of economic activity and layoffs of government employees combined to bolster state and local budgets. In fact, some states’ financial position improved and saw an increase in revenues. State legislatures are now trying to decide what to do with their cut of the $195 billion in state aid contained in the American Rescue Plan. States are using funds for one-time increases in programs for schools or replenishing unemployment trust funds that were drained during the pandemic. Still others are holding onto the funds, which do not need to be spent until 2024.