March 19,2020

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Ashley Schapitl (202)224-4515

Wyden Outlines Economic Policy Priorities For Coronavirus Response

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today outlined economic policies within committee jurisdiction that he’s working on to address the harm caused by the coronavirus pandemic and exacerbated by the Trump administration’s ongoing failure to ensure adequate testing.

“I have two simple priorities to save our economy from another depression: get money to American workers who have lost their jobs overnight and get money to small businesses that are struggling to survive,” Senator Wyden said. “The American people saw in 2009 how executives and powerful interests seize any opportunity to swallow up taxpayer-funded assistance, so I'm going to work to make sure that any potential taxpayer help is focused on workers and comes with strict guardrails, including a prohibition on stock buybacks and executive compensation.”

Ranking Member Wyden’s Economic Policy Priorities

(Further economic policies are also under development and policies to lower health care costs for families and ease the strain on the health care system will soon be released.)

Supercharge unemployment assistance (These proposals build on the Wyden-Peters Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act)

  • Increase the amount of unemployment assistance benefits.
  • Extend by 13 the number of weeks that unemployment compensation is available.
  • Promote work-sharing programs that allow businesses to keep workers on payroll while making up for lost pay.
  • Eliminate the “waiting week” between applying for unemployment compensation benefits and receiving them.

Increase Social Security and other federal benefits

  • Additional $200 per month to all federal beneficiaries through December 2021.
  • Payments would not be counted for means-tested programs, but would be included in taxable income for individuals with over $140,000 and couples with over $280,000 in annual income.

Rescue small businesses and save people’s jobs

  • Send emergency rebate checks to small businesses to address immediate cash flow needs and replace the demand many are losing due to quarantines. Checks would be equal to a percentage of gross receipts from a previous tax year.
  • Create a small business retention credit to help small businesses keep workers on payroll by subsidizing a portion of wages beyond the subsidies offered in the Families First Act.
  • Defer 2020 estimated payments for small business owners. Reduce the safe harbor, which currently requires businesses to pay 100 percent of their previous year’s quarterly taxes, to help account for 2020 revenue losses.

Allow retirement plan flexibility

  • Allow workers to tap 401(k) savings early and recontribute those amounts in later years without penalty. 
  • Allow larger loans to be made from retirement plans, and extend repayment deadlines for plan loans.
  • Waive the 10% additional tax on early distributions from IRAs and retirement plans for distributions taken in 2020.
  • Waive required minimum distributions from IRAs and 401(k) plans for 2020 and allow the re-contribution of required minimum distributions taken in 2019.
  • Delay minimum pension funding contributions during 2020. 

Prevent abuse of any potential industry assistance

  • Prioritize paying and retaining workers.
  • Limit executive compensation.
  • Ban stock buybacks.