Pelosi Says House Will Move Immediately on COVID-19 Relief

Pelosi Says House Will Move Immediately on COVID-19 Relief

January 21, 2021

ABIBankruptcy Brief

Pelosi Says House Will Move Immediately on COVID-19 Relief

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said today that House Democrats will move immediately on a massive coronavirus relief package, setting the stage for an early showdown in the newly flipped Senate over the chief legislative priority of the nascent Biden administration, The Hill reported. House Democrats have rearranged their schedule over the next two weeks, scrapping votes next week to allow the relevant committees to consider the various provisions of their emerging COVID-19 relief package. Pelosi suggested that the package could hit the House floor as early as the week of Feb. 1. "We're getting ready for a COVID relief package. We'll be working on that as we go," she told reporters in the Capitol. "We'll be doing our ... committee work all next week so that we are completely ready to go to the floor when we come back." A Pelosi aide emphasized that no floor vote has been scheduled. Biden last week had unveiled a $1.9 trillion emergency relief package, which features many of the wish-list items contained in earlier proposals from Pelosi and House Democrats. That list includes hundreds of billions of dollars to develop and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, hike unemployment benefits, provide $1,400 in direct payments to qualified Americans, and help state and local governments cope financially with the ongoing crisis.

Biden Releases National COVID-19 Strategy, Will Order Agencies to Use Defense Production Act

President Biden today released his national strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic, which will include using the Defense Production Act (DPA) and other powers to speed up the manufacturing of testing and vaccine supplies and other items needed to fight COVID-19. The Trump administration had resisted calls to release a comprehensive plan to fight COVID-19, instead deferring significant authority to the states. The plan released by the Biden administration today aims to instill confidence in the U.S. pandemic response by accelerating the vaccine rollout, boosting testing and access to treatments and protecting those at most risk, including communities of color. The administration will also use the DPA to accelerate production of syringes, raw materials used in vaccines and other items needed to quickly get shots in arms, officials said.

U.S. Jobless Claims Decline, but Remain Elevated at 900,000

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to 900,000, still a historically high level that points to ongoing job cuts in a raging pandemic, the Associated Press reported. The Labor Department also said that 5.1 million Americans are continuing to receive state jobless benefits, down from 5.2 million in the previous week. This suggests that while some of the unemployed are finding jobs, others are likely using up their state benefits and transitioning to separate extended-benefit programs. More than 10 million people are receiving aid from those extended programs, which now offer up to 50 weeks of benefits, or from a new program that provides benefits to contractors and the self-employed. All told, nearly 16 million people were on unemployment in the week that ended Jan. 2, the latest period for which data is available.

Commentary: How the American Unemployment System Failed*

The nation’s unemployment insurance program, conceived during the Great Depression, was meant to keep jobless workers and their families from suffering drops in income that could tip them into poverty or force them to liquidate their assets to afford food, rent and other necessities. Its goals included allowing the unemployed to wait for a productive job to materialize, rather than take the first one that appeared, and providing stability to the economy in recessions, mitigating the expected drop in consumption when millions of workers lost their jobs. The tussle in Congress last month over whether to extend emergency unemployment payments that were on the cusp of expiring — potentially pushing 12 million people into some form of destitution, according to the Century Foundation, a liberal policy research group — was a reminder that the system as designed has not been up to its task, according to a New York Times commentary. Unemployment insurance is controlled and funded by the states, within loose federal guidelines. But the federal government has been repeatedly called on to provide additional relief, including emergency patches to unemployment insurance after the Great Recession hit in 2008. Indeed, it has intervened in response to every recession since the 1950s. While a federal backstop may make sense for times of economic upheaval, the repeated recourse to Capitol Hill underscores the shortcomings of a chronically underfunded, patchwork system that has not kept up with changes in the workplace and puts the unemployed at the mercy of the nation’s political winds. While the surge in unemployment caused by the pandemic could offer an opening to overhaul the program — an opportunity strengthened by Democrats’ takeover of the White House and the Senate — any push for change must overcome powerful incentives vying to further shrink the program, according to the commentary.

*The views expressed in this commentary are from the author/publication cited, are meant for informative purposes only, and are not an official position of ABI.

Strapped Local Governments Turn to Private Developers to Finance Projects

For state and local governments, the pandemic has brought financial gloom: Tax collections are down, public health expenses are up and their infrastructure backlog is growing. For developers and real estate investors, it all spells opportunity, the New York Times reported. The fiscal challenges could spur new ways for the private sector to collaborate with state and local governments. Public-private partnerships, known as P3s, rely on developers and investors to shoulder upfront financial risk, often delaying payments from governments until revenue starts flowing or certain construction benchmarks are reached. The partnerships have been used for projects in parts of Asia, Australia, Britain, Canada and other parts of Europe. But state and local governments in the U.S. have been slower to embrace them. As their fiscal woes become worse, some government officials are looking more closely at them as a tool to jump-start their economies. Data suggests governments will need all the help they can get: The National League of Cities estimates that nearly 90 percent of cities will be less able to meet their needs in fiscal 2021 than in fiscal 2020. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that the U.S. would need to spend $4.59 trillion by 2025 to repair or rebuild roads, bridges, dams, airports, schools and other infrastructure. The partnerships have a mixed record, but they could be one way to bring back Main Streets and reinvigorate downtowns, experts say.

Biden Appoints U.S. Consumer Watchdog Veteran as Acting Director of CFPB

The White House announced President Joe Biden would appoint Dave Uejio to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on an acting basis after its director, Kathy Kraninger, resigned at the new administration’s request, Reuters reported. Uejio will run the watchdog agency pending Senate confirmation of Federal Trade Commission member Rohit Chopra as its permanent director. Uejio is a nine-year CFPB veteran and was most recently its chief strategy officer. Kraninger, who was appointed by Republican President Donald Trump, tweeted she was resigning shortly after Biden was sworn in on Wednesday. Her term was due to end in 2023. Last year, however, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a challenge, backed by the Trump administration and long supported by most Republicans, that argued that the CFPB director served at the president’s will.

Illinois Legislature Passes New “All-In” Finance Charge Cap

On January 13, 2021, the Illinois legislature overwhelmingly passed S.B. 1792, intended to, among other things, overhaul the state’s consumer finance laws. Described prior to enactment as a bill related to “Energy Storage Systems,” S.B. 1792 passed, together with other major bills, with remarkably little debate, according to an analysis on The drafters’ inclusion of the “Predatory Loan Prevention Act” in S.B. 1792 would extend the 36% “all-in” Military Annual Percentage Rate (MAPR) finance charge cap of the federal Military Lending Act (MLA) to “any person or entity that offers or makes a loan to a consumer in Illinois” unless made by a statutorily exempt entity (i.e., a bank, savings bank, savings and loan association, credit union or insurance company). (S.B. 1792 separately amends the Illinois Consumer Installment Loan Act and the Payday Loan Reform Act to apply this same 36% MAPR cap.) The cap is effective immediately upon the Governor’s signature, which is expected at any time.

First Circuit Seeks Applicants for Bankruptcy Judge Position in Puerto Rico

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit is seeking applicants for a bankruptcy judge position for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Puerto Rico in Ponce. Attorneys are encouraged to apply, even if their experience is not specifically in bankruptcy law. Interested applicants may obtain an application from the Circuit Executive's Office, from the Bankruptcy Court Clerk for the District of Puerto Rico, or by accessing the Court of Appeals' website at Persons interested in applying for this position and willing to serve if selected should personally submit their applications to Susan Goldberg, Circuit Executive, via email at [email protected]. The individual selected must comply with the statutory and Judicial Conference regulations regarding the filing of financial disclosure reports. The term of office is 14 years, and the current salary is $201,112. Applications are to be received no later than March 3, 2021. EOE.

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New on ABI’s Bankruptcy Blog Exchange: Regulatory Pressure Growing on Installment Lenders

The fast-growing buy now/pay later industry is drawing scrutiny from legislators and regulators who fear it could become predatory, according to a recent blog post.

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