A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.
1. House passed Biden’s Build Back Better bill, sending measure with free preschool, climate initiatives to the Senate
This morning, after months of negotiations, the House passed President Joe Biden’s roughly $2 trillion package aimed at expanding the nation’s social safety net, confronting climate change and helping Americans bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation was approved on a 220-213 vote and is now headed to the Senate where it faces an uncertain future. The legislation would fund universal pre-K, Medicare expansion, renewable energy credits, affordable housing and a year of expanded Child Tax Credits. Opponents of the bill argue funding it would add to the nation’s debt, continuing the current trend of rising prices. Democrats maintain their stance that the bill is fully paid for and that over time it would help reduce the nation’s deficit as a result of taxing the wealthiest Americans and corporations that are not paying their fair share.
2. Infrastructure, Build Back Better and earmarks: What big projects could be coming to Maryland
President Joe Biden signed into law the $1 trillion infrastructure package on Monday after months of negotiations that could potentially send billions to Maryland for roads, bridges, broadband and the Chesapeake Bay. But that isn’t the only source of funding Maryland could potentially receive from the federal government. $2 trillion included in Biden’s Build Back Better Act is sitting in congressional limbo and could significantly reduce the cost of childcare and prescription drugs and cut taxes for families with kids. Also halted in the Senate, are dozens of earmarks, totaling close to $10 million in funding for Maryland community projects, that were submitted by Maryland’s congressional delegation for the 2022 fiscal year. Some favor continuing 2021 funding levels, which would prevent many local projects from being considered. Although both bills have made incremental strides in Congress, they have not yet cleared the Senate.
To read the full story and to view the breakdown of federal funding making its way to Maryland click here.
3. Republican senators file challenge to Biden vaccine mandate for businesses
All 50 Senate Republicans, led by Senator Mike Braun, have filed a formal challenge to President Biden’s vax-or-test COVID-19 mandate for businesses that would affect millions of workers. Opponents argue this rule represents federal government overreach and violates American workers’ civil liberties. But Biden’s administration has stated blocking the mandate would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day. The rule was transferred to a Cincinnati-based federal appeals court this week to handle at least 34 lawsuits that have been filed by several states, employers and religious groups. Biden administration officials seek to request the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to reimplement the mandate to meet the Jan. 4. deadline.
Read the full story here.
4. Can workers who are fired for refusing COVID-19 shots collect unemployment insurance?
Potential federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates will test how far workers are willing to go if there is a risk of losing income or unemployment benefits if they choose not to comply. Many states such as New York have told workers, particularly in health and educational fields, they will not qualify for unemployment benefits if they defied policies evenly applied by their employers. A small number of Republican-led states, including Iowa, have passed legislation to allow vaccine refusers to get state-level benefits. But the situation is not as clear-cut in Maryland. State officials have said they will consider mitigating factors in determining unemployment benefit eligibility for those refusing a vaccine mandate, but those factors have not been spelled out. Although it is too soon to predict how the unemployment office will handle the claims of those fired or who has resigned due to new workplace requirements, the new government mandate will only increase the risk of denial of benefits.
Read the full story here.
5. The Mayor of Baltimore commits $55 million in ARPA funds to workforce development, economic recovery fund
The 2021 American Rescue Plan (ARPA) provided $641 million to the city of Baltimore to spend on pandemic recovery efforts. During a news conference on Tuesday, Mayor Brandon Scott announced he is committing $55 million of this funding for economic initiatives in Baltimore to get residents back to work and support small businesses that have floundered amid the pandemic’s financial uncertainty. The Mayor’s Office of Employment Development will receive $30 million to fund four workforce development programs, providing career pathways to many Baltimore residents, marking the largest investment the city has made in workforce training. The remaining $25 million will be placed in the economic recovery fund to provide immediate support to businesses and communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
Read the full story here.
Calling all Maryland businesses! The Maryland Chamber Foundation’s 2022 Teacher Externship Program is open and accepting applications. Help us shape tomorrow’s workforce by hosting a teacher for an immersive four-week externship. Learn more about this unique program and how we will impact the lives of thousands of students as they consider their future careers.