Federal Update: Senate Democrats Push to Extend Enhanced Unemployment Benefits, Lawmakers Call for Transparency in Pandemic Data Collection, WHO Warns Some Countries may Have to Reinstate Lockdowns

July 1, 2020

  • Senate Democrats unveiled a plan to extend enhanced unemployment benefits until a drop in a state’s unemployment rate, when it would be phased out. Congress approved in March an additional $600 per week in federal unemployment insurance but it expires at the end of the month even as the U.S. unemployment rate hovers above 13%. The legislation would extend the enhanced insurance but reduce the amount beneficiaries receive as the economy recovers. Once a state’s three-month average unemployment rate dips below 11%, the benefit would get cut by $100 for every percentage point the jobless rate falls until it slides below 6%. 
  • A growing number of Democratic lawmakers are sounding the alarm about a program launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to track the spread of the coronavirus. The public health effort, called “HHS Protect Now,” scoops up vast amounts of data, including coronavirus test results, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local sources. It also relies on technology from secretive Silicon Valley firm Palantir, better known for working with the U.S. military, national security agencies and immigration offices. In a letter sent to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, a group of Democratic U.S. senators and members of Congress questioned whether any of the data gathered would be shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to round up undocumented immigrants.
  • Some countries with rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreaks might have to reinstate lockdowns and other restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Globally, the pandemic is still accelerating, Tedros said. Over the past week, more than 160,000 coronavirus infections have been confirmed around the world every single day. The virus has now infected more than 10.5 million people globally and killed at least 512,331 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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