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Trump Labor Sec. Wants To Roll Back Unemployment Benefits, Paid Leave In Coronavirus Stimulus

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U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia has sparked a widespread backlash over his efforts to roll back unemployment benefits and paid leave in the multi-trillion-dollar coronavirus stimulus package approved by Congress last month.

Scalia is being blasted by Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups who accused the former corporate lawyer of favoring businesses over people in desperate need of assistance. This article first appeared on Common Dreams:

As noted by  Common Dreams: “Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, “has used his department’s authority over new laws enacted by Congress to limit who qualifies for joblessness assistance and to make it easier for small businesses not to pay family leave benefits,” the Washington Post reported Friday.

In a tweet late Friday, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) pointed to the unprecedented surge in jobless claims over the past month and ripped Scalia’s “despicable” management of the CARES Act, which temporarily expands relief for the unemployed.

“Because of COVID-19, more than 16 million Americans have submitted unemployment claims in the past three weeks, but Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia is using his authority to limit who qualifies for assistance,” Cohen wrote. “This is despicable. We are in the midst of a pandemic!”

While criticizing the stimulus package—which President Donald Trump signed into law late last month—as far too business-friendly overall, progressives have cautiously applauded the law’s across-the-board expansion of unemployment benefits by $600 for a period of four months.

But lawmakers have voiced alarm at the Labor Department’s lack of urgency in rolling out the benefits and, as the Post reported, Scalia issued guidance earlier this week that aims to “make it more difficult for gig workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers to get benefits.”

Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, ripped the department’s guidance in a series of tweets:

Earlier this month, as Common Dreams reported, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) slammed Scalia for quietly scaling back the already inadequate paid leave provisions in the CARES Act and creating “gratuitous loopholes” for companies to deny benefits to their employees.

“The Trump administration is twisting the law to allow employers to shirk their responsibility and is significantly narrowing which workers are eligible for paid leave,” Murray said in a statement. “This simply can’t stand. This guidance needs to be rewritten so workers get the leave they are guaranteed under the law.”

The Post reported that under the Labor Department’s newly issued rules, “businesses that deny workers paid leave don’t have to send the government any paperwork justifying why. The Labor Department’s guidance asks companies to ‘retain such records for its own files,’ a contrast with the heavy documentation required from gig workers who must prove they were affected by the coronavirus outbreak to get aid.”

Scalia has not been shy in offering his opinion on the stimulus law’s expansion of benefits.

“Unemployment is not the preferred outcome when government stay-at-home orders force temporary business shutdowns,” Scalia wrote earlier this week in a Fox Business op-ed with Jovita Carranza, the head of the Small Business Administration. “We want workers to have work, not to become dependent on the unemployment system.”

Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist with the Economic Policy Institute, called Scalia’s warning about unemployment dependency in the midst of a global pandemic “an absolute disgrace.”

As New York magazine’s Eric Levitz put it Friday, “Trump’s Labor Department has been working diligently to ensure that no U.S. worker has it too easy in the middle of a pandemic and burgeoning economic depression.”

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NEWS

Trump Spent Memorial Day Tweeting About Golf, Comparing Himself To Obama And Threatening a Democratic Governor

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President Donald Trump spent most of the Memorial Day on Twitter defending himself from charges that he was golfing as the U.S. neared the horrific 100,000 coronavirus death milestone.

Trump, who frequently attacked then-president Barack Obama for golfing, has spent more than $130 million in taxpayers’ money on golfing trips. And he couldn’t take the heat after the campaign of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden released an ad pointing out his golfing trip as the COVID-19 death toll mounts.

On Sunday, he responded to the ad, comparing himself (favorably, of course) to Obama:

On Monday, Memorial Day, he jumped on Twitter again, this time blaming the “truly deranged” media for supposedly elevating the story. “[Obama] also played moments after the brutal killing by ISIS of a wonderful young man,” Trump said. “Totally inappropriate – and it was me who shattered 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. I was left a MESS!”

Trump also threatened to pull the Republican National Convention from Charlotte, citing North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s “shutdown mood” and noncommitment to saying whether or not a convention for tens of thousands of people in the state’s largest city will be able to take place in August.

Aside from defending his hobbies, Trump’s Memorial Day weekend of tweeting included retweeting several posts by a former congressional candidate with a history of making racist and sexist remarks about black women.

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