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Journal Times editorial: New federal relief bill must reduce jobless benefit, add liability protections
Our Perspective

Journal Times editorial: New federal relief bill must reduce jobless benefit, add liability protections

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While much is still unknown about coronavirus, it appears certain that this virus is not going away any time soon.

Because of that, it’s right that Congress is working on a new coronavirus bill to help the country continue to get through this pandemic.

When the new bill is finalized it should include some liability protection for businesses. It also needs to reduce the $600 weekly unemployment benefit.

The extra $600 per week was supposed to be a serve as a bridge for people to get through the early part of the pandemic. It wasn’t supposed to be a new, long-term income source. For someone getting $200 from the state per week, plus the $600 from the federal government, that adds up to $800 per week or $20 per hour for 40 hours. That is more than many people receiving the benefit normally earn when they were working. And for many the $800 is closer to $900. Help is still needed for many, but the amount needs to decrease.

It’s not sustainable for the federal government and taxpayers, and it’s not sustainable for businesses that are reopening and need their workers back.

It’s also not fair for those essential workers, who are making $10-$15 per hour and have been going to work every day in the midst of the pandemic. They are making less than those who are not working.

There still needs to be help for citizens who are unable to work. But continuing the $600 weekly unemployment bonus, in that amount, is not the answer.

For our economy to move forward, businesses cannot be expected to sit it out and wait another year or two to reopen. To help those businesses reopen, the government needs add incentives to get back to work and to add liability protection into whatever bill it passes.

This past week, 21 Republican governors sent a letter to leaders in Washington advocating for liability protections for businesses, educators and health care workers.

In part the letter read, “When Americans take sensible steps to implement public health best practices, they should have confidence that they will be secure from unreasonable claims. Liability protections must be predictable, timely, targeted, and shield employers from legal risk when following the appropriate standard of care to protect employees, customers and students.”

It goes on to say, “To be clear, liability protections are not a license for gross negligence, misconduct, or recklessness … As public policymakers, it is our duty to provide clarity, consistency, and stability to our citizens and their businesses, and the uniformity that federal law provides is critical to America’s industries that work across state lines.

If a company blatantly ignores the law or knowingly has someone work who has been diagnosed with coronavirus, and co-workers get sick, then that would be another story. There could be a case there.

But if one person goes into a bar or restaurant, store, school or wherever, and reasonable precautions are taking place, then that establishment shouldn’t be liable if someone gets sick.

Even with the best tracing, it’s nearly impossible to tell definitively where someone caught the virus.

For now people and businesses need to take what precautions they can. But on top of all their other worries, they shouldn’t have to worry about a frivolous lawsuit.

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