On The Money: GOP turning against new round of $1,200 rebate checks | Millions of Americans frustrated by delayed unemployment checks | Senate votes to give coronavirus relief program more flexibility

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THE BIG DEAL—Republicans turning against new round of $1,200 rebate checks: Republican lawmakers are voicing deep skepticism about passing another round of $1,200 rebate checks as they contemplate the next and possibly final stage of coronavirus relief legislation.

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton tells us why.

LEADING THE DAY

Millions of Americans frustrated by delayed unemployment checks: Millions of Americans are still waiting for their first unemployment checks after months of waiting for state systems to clear unprecedented backlogs. 

  • More than 40 million Americans have filed new claims for unemployment benefits since late March as the coronavirus pandemic forced thousands of businesses to close and lay off workers.
  • The surge in jobless claims has overwhelmed state processing systems that experts say depend on outdated technology and have long been underfunded, leaving as much as a third of applicants without their owed benefits. 
  • State governments are facing increasing pressure to send out checks while facing their own financial crises as Congress struggles to find common ground on providing financial assistance for unemployed workers at a time of falling state revenues. Congress had approved federal funds to provide an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits.

The shortfalls in state budgets have left thousands of vulnerable Americans who qualify for the benefits facing immediate pressure and financial issues that could persist long after the pandemic. 

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“There are states that have actively been trying to improve their systems but for some reasons workers are having more trouble accessing benefits than they had historically,” said Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit that advocates for stronger labor protections.

“This is a national problem. There's no state system that hasn't fallen victim to this in some way,” she added.

I explain why here.

Senate passes bill to give flexibility for small business coronavirus aid program: The Senate passed legislation on Wednesday to provide more flexibility for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides help for small businesses amid the steep economic impact of the coronavirus.

The bill, which would extend the window for businesses to be able to spend loans granted under the program, passed the Senate by unanimous consent. The bill already passed the House last month, meaning it now goes to President Trump's desk. 

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  • Under the March $2.2 trillion coronavirus package, businesses were given eight weeks to spend PPP funds. The bill passed by the Senate on Thursday would extend that to 24 weeks.
  • It would also change a 75-25 divide included in the March bill — which required businesses to spend 75 percent of the loan on payroll and 25 percent on other fixed costs like rent and utilities — to a 60-40 ratio.

"Today we're passing another piece of legislation that makes a few targeted changes to the program," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced from the floor. "I'm proud the Senate is sending it on to the president's desk to become law."

The Hill's Jordain Carney tells us how we got here.

GOOD TO KNOW

  • Congress should pass at least $1 trillion in further stimulus and emergency relief to keep the economy afloat through the COVID-19 pandemic, former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf testified Wednesday.
  • The Federal Reserve on Wednesday expanded access to its emergency lending facility for city and county governments to ensure each state has at least two eligible borrowers for the coronavirus relief program.
  • Deepening state budget deficits threaten to become a drag on the U.S. economy when it emerges from the coronavirus recession, repeating a mistake Congress made during the Great Recession.
  • ADP's monthly private payroll estimate released Wednesday found that 2.76 million jobs were lost in May, an unexpectedly small figure given the millions who have filed for unemployment each week.
  • Executives of chicken producers Pilgrim’s Pride and Claxton Poultry Farms were indicted on Wednesday for allegedly conspiring to fix prices, The Wall Street Journal reported, as the parent company of Pilgrim’s Pride faces its own Justice Department probe into foreign corruption.