The Bottom LineThe Bottom Line

Economics in Brief: $2,000 Checks Are the New Senate’s First Priority

Also: Some Google employees have formed a union, a new report argues for credit unions to expand who they serve, and jobless claims are still setting records.

A check from the U.S. Treasury Dept.

(Photo by frankieleon / CC BY 2.0)

$2,000 Stimulus Checks Are First Priority in New Senate, Schumer Says

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters that $2,000 stimulus checks to Americans is “one of the first things we want to do” in the new Congress, the Washington Post reports. And with two new incoming Democratic senators in Georgia, after Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won their races in the runoff, giving Democrats a majority in both the Senate and the House, the checks are a possibility.

“That money would go out the door immediately, to help people who are in real trouble,” the Post quoted President-elect Joe Biden as saying in Georgia during the closing days of the Senate campaigns.

(Some) Google Employees Have Unionized

More than 400 Google employees have formed a union, the New York Times reports. The purpose of the Alphabet Workers Union, members said, was not to negotiate wages or other employment terms, but rather to push Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to “be a company where workers have a meaningful say in decisions that affect us and the societies we live in,” organizers wrote in an op-ed.

Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw, the leaders of the new union, cited external issues such as Google developing artificial intelligence technology for military use and profiting from ads by hate groups, and internal issues like the company’s spotty track record on handling sexual harassment cases or its recent dismissal of Black AI ethicist Timnit Gebru, when reminding readers that Google’s motto “used to be ‘Don’t be evil.’” (Google removed that phrase from its code of conduct sometime in 2018.)

Unions are rare within the tech industry; Kickstarter’s union, which formed less than a year ago, represented the first major union victory at a tech company.

Veena Dubal, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, told the Times that the Google union was a “powerful experiment.”

“If it grows — which Google will do everything they can to prevent — it could have huge impacts not just for the workers but for the broader issues that we are all thinking about in terms of tech power in society,” she said.

Jobless Claims Still Higher than the Worst of the Great Recession

Nearly 1 million people (948,000) applied for unemployment benefits last week, the Department of Labor reported. That’s 787,000 people who applied for regular unemployment, and 161,000 who applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the special COVID-19-era program that provides unemployment benefits to gig workers and the self-employed.

The Economic Policy Institute reports that this makes the 42nd straight week in which claims were greater than the worst week of the Great Recession. If Pandemic Unemployment Assistance isn’t counted, then jobless claims were greater than the second worst week of the Great Recession.

EPI’s analysis estimates that millions of people have exhausted their unemployment benefits — some of whom can reapply now that Congress has extended certain benefits through March — but such extensions “just kick the can down the road,” EPI says.

Federal Task Force Argues Credit Unions Should Be Allowed to Expand their Rolls to Serve the Unbanked

A nearly 900-page report on consumer financial law from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommended that Congress allow all credit unions to serve underserved areas, Credit Union Times reports.

Credit unions today can choose from one of three types of charters. The “single common bond” charter is for members of a particular association or job; the “multiple common bond” allows credit unions to serve more than one group of associates or employees, and “community” credit unions are for anyone within a designated geographic boundary. Only multiple-common-bond-chartered credit unions are allowed to expand their membership to underserved communities outside those boundaries.

“It is the view of the Taskforce that credit union charter type distinctions are somewhat arbitrary…As a result, the Taskforce is unable to discern a logical reason for excluding certain credit unions from serving underserved areas simply because of the terms of their common bonds,” the report reads.

Credit union trade groups have endorsed plans like this in the past, CU Times notes.

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter.

Tags: covid-19unionscredit unionsunemployment

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