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Jones asks Senate to aid furloughed, laid off workers

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, in a letter to Senate leadership Wednesday, pressed for a program to shore up laid off or furloughed workers’ wages and benefits for up to six months as businesses big and small struggle amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jones and Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts signed the letter to Senate leadership asking that the emergency protections be included in the next coronavirus relief package.

“During this tumultuous time, working people should not have to also worry about applying for unemployment, finding new health care, or losing their connection to their employer,” the letter reads. “The Paycheck Security Program will use existing infrastructure to work to help companies maintain wages and benefits of employees of affected businesses and non-profits until the economic and public health crisis is resolved. The proposal will help cut some of the red tape that is currently slowing down relief to the American workers who need it most.”

“American businesses and their employees are the heart and soul of our communities. Please consider including this program in the next coronavirus package to keep our communities thriving and vibrant,” the letter continued.

The proposed emergency aid, detailed in a white paper, would provide grants to businesses of all sizes to help cover workers’ salaries and benefits for up to six months. Several European countries have similar programs aimed at helping businesses retain workers and pay them during the health crisis.

Alabama’s unemployment system has struggled to keep up with the numbers of applicants. As of Tuesday, the Alabama Department of Labor had paid $264 million to the state’s unemployed who were impacted by the coronavirus, according to Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington, speaking at a press conference Tuesday.


Full letter is below.

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April 22, 2020

Dear Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Schumer:

We applaud the important and swift steps Congress took to provide immediate relief to Americans impacted by the coronavirus. As you consider policies to address the economic and health implications of the coronavirus in a future package, we request our proposal, the Paycheck Security Program, be incorporated as it would help prevent further job losses and alleviate the economic uncertainty facing American workers and businesses.

The Paycheck Security Program will use existing infrastructure to work to help companies maintain wages and benefits of employees of affected businesses and non-profits until the economic and public health crisis is resolved. The proposal will help cut some of the red tape that is currently slowing down relief to the American workers who need it most.

Administered by the Treasury Department, the Paycheck Security Program would cover the wages and benefits of furloughed or laid off employees of affected businesses and non-profits that have experienced a drop in revenues of at least 20 percent. Grants will cover salaries and wages up to $90,000 for each furloughed or laid off employee, plus benefits, as well as up to an additional 20 percent of revenues to cover fixed operating costs such as rent, utilities, insurance policies, and maintenance.

Companies receiving these grants must commit to a number of restrictions including maintaining pay and benefits of rank-and-file workers and offering to bring back workers laid off since February 1st the opportunity to go back to participate in the program at prior level of compensation. In addition, they cannot engage in stock buybacks, pay dividends or management fees, cap CEO pay at 50 times the median wage of their workforce and protect collective bargaining agreements.

During this tumultuous time, working people should not have to also worry about applying for unemployment, finding new health care, or losing their connection to their employer. This proposal will help businesses that cannot access a loan program because they don’t have a strong banking relationship or the ability to fill out all of the complicated paperwork, to stay in business during the health crisis and as soon as it lifts, reopen their stores and resume their operations.

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American businesses and their employees are the heart and soul of our communities. Please consider including this program in the next coronavirus package to keep our communities thriving and vibrant.

Written By

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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