The Week in Business: Happy New Year, Here’s $600
Welcome to 2021. The next few months may not be easier than the last, but let’s take it one week at a time. Here is the business and technical news you need to know for the days to come. – Charlotte Cowles
How are you? (December 27th – January 2nd)
Christmas came late
Under increasing pressure from both parties, on December 27, President Trump finally signed a $ 900 billion pandemic rescue package that he had previously spoken out against. The bill, which was haggled in Congress for months, prevented the government from closing and provided billions of dollars in coronavirus aid to hospitals, schools, businesses and American families. By delaying his signature, Mr Trump phased out two pandemic-related unemployment assistance programs and put the livelihoods of millions of Americans at risk. The new legislation reinstated them.
$ 600 versus $ 2,000
The aid bill may be official, but Congress is still debating one of its provisions: the stimulus tests for direct payments. Should they each be $ 600 as originally stated on the bill or $ 2,000 as Mr. Trump requested? The Democrats were more than happy to sign Mr Trump’s push for higher payments, which left Republicans in the uncomfortable position of defying the president if they disagreed. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there was “no realistic path” for the proposal, which he could effectively block by embarking on two other measures that the Democrats would never agree to, including an integrity investigation 2020 elections. The $ 600 payments went to the Americans last week and most recipients are expected to save the money instead of spending it and kicking the economy.
Does it cost what?
If you’ve ever paid a hospital bill, you know how confusing they can be. This is because the price of a medical procedure depends on the rate each hospital negotiates with individual insurers. This amount is usually kept confidential and largely depends on how much the procedure actually costs the hospital. A new federal rule that went into effect Jan. 1 now requires hospitals to disclose the tariffs they negotiate with insurers – or face fines of up to $ 300 per day. That penalty is peanut compared to what hospitals typically charge both insurers and patients, but it’s a step towards transparency.
What’s next? (3rd to 9th January)
A year of lost vacation
Have you canceled your vacation plans this year? I definitely did – it seemed pointless to take time out just to sit at home. Apparently I’m not alone, and now many employers are adjusting their vacation policies to allow workers to stick to the vacation days they didn’t take in 2020. Instead of rules required of employees, a number of large corporations, including Bank of America, Citigroup, and Condé Nast, allow special time in late December to extend their paid time off into the New Year. One more thing to look forward to in 2021.
Everyone agrees that vaccine distribution in the US is going too slowly and that the federal government has nowhere near reached its goal of having 20 million people vaccinated by the end of 2020. But no one can agree why. The Trump administration has accused states of not moving quickly enough with the vaccines it received. The state governments say they need more federal funding. And delays in shipping during the holidays don’t help either. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the process, warning that at this rate it would take “years, not months” to get enough vaccines to protect the country and restore the economy can be opened.
Put a fork in Brexit
Another thing we’d love to leave behind in 2020: Brexit and its incessant drama. More than four years after Britain voted to leave the European Union, the two sides finally agreed on new travel and trade rules, and the UK Parliament approved the deal last week. The agreement will introduce new customs procedures at the UK border and end the free movement of people between the UK and EU countries. But that’s already happening anyway as the UK is depending on a new variant of the coronavirus that’s spread across the country.