Providing Help Where It's Needed Most

Special Guests: Ben Gitis, Bob Bixby, Tori Gorman

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On the latest Facing the Future, I was joined by Ben Gitis, a senior policy analyst for the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Economic Policy Project, Concord Coalition Executive Director, Bob Bixby, and Concord’s Policy Director, Tori Gorman. We discussed policies aimed at helping workers and families, as well as the latest on COVID-19 relief legislation and the budget process.


[Note: Portions of this week’s Facing the Future can be seen in the video clip posted below.]

The discussion with Gitis centered on BPC’s recent paper, “Coming Together to Support Workers and Families: A Pragmatic Agenda for the New Congress.”

“We had two main objectives with this paper,” Gitis said. “First, we wanted to start providing some policies that helped lawmakers begin to tackle some of the very serious issues that families and workers are facing today; Second, we wanted to also provide a starting point for lawmakers to begin working together in a bipartisan fashion in this new Congress and administration.”

“We focus on three areas – financial resilience and wealth creation, work and opportunity, and children and families – and we provide a suite of policies to address issues in those three areas,” Gitis added. “These are long-term issues that we hope to create durable policy change for, which have been greatly exacerbated by COVID-19.”

From expanded tax credits to new investments, Gitis highlighted actionable policies for which he sees a fair amount of bipartisan support. Although he agreed that curbing long-term fiscal challenges should be a consideration, the impetus should be on meeting critical needs now.

“It’s a modest place for lawmakers to begin, with pragmatic and targeted solutions,” he said. “Beyond the crisis, it’s going to be vital that lawmakers identify the moment for when it’s time to start addressing these fiscal, long-term unsustainable issues.”

“That’s, perhaps, going to be one of the trickiest challenges this administration could face – deciding when it’s time to shift from relief, stimulus, and investment, and start tackling those long-term issues,” Gitis added.

Bixby and Gorman joined the program to discuss the latest in COVID-19 relief legislation and the budget process.

On how COVID relief legislation would get through Congress, Gorman said it looks like the reconciliation process is going to be the vehicle.

“I think we’re definitely heading towards reconciliation just because the calendar demands it; a lot of the income aid passed in the December bill expires in mid-March,” Gorman said. “There’s definitely a rush to get legislation done so none of that expires and lapses before they have a chance to extend it.”

“Given that this is a very new Biden presidency, I think that Democrats in the House and Senate have every interest in trying to make this package be as close to his proposal as possible,” she added. “I think that the only thing that’s going to stand in their way are certain restrictions that exist in the Senate pertaining to a reconciliation bill.”

Bixby provided a high-level overview on whether the proposal satisfies Concord’s “3 Ts,” timely, targeted, and temporary emergency relief.

“I think it’s drifting a bit and morphing a bit with the budget to come,” Bixby said. “Remember, what we’re talking about now is an emergency supplement to the CARES Act and the bill that was passed in December – the whole idea being responding to the emergency and the economic fallout from that.”

“So, there are natural components – like extending the enhanced unemployment benefits, aid for vaccine distribution, small business loans, and industry relief – things that are clearly targeted to those most affected by the pandemic,” Bixby said.

But he added that there are certainly proposals within the legislation that are not meant to be temporary and do not directly respond to the crisis. Although Bixby acknowledged that they could be good ideas, they should be considered in separate legislation or as part of the upcoming Biden budget proposal.

“This is just step one, the emergency response that we’re looking at now,” he said. “President Biden is going to have a much bigger proposal sometime in the next few weeks … and some of these things ought to be left for that broader debate.”

Hear more on Facing the Future. I host the program each week on WKXL, (N.H.), and it is also available via podcast. Join me and my guests as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders, and elected officials. Past broadcasts are available here. You can subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or with an RSS feed. Follow Facing the Future on Facebook, and watch videos from past episodes on The Concord Coalition YouTube channel.

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