Four senators introduced a bill Wednesday to create a credit that workers displaced by the coronavirus pandemic could apply to a range of skills training programs.
The legislation unveiled by two Democrats and two Republicans would make a fully refundable $4,000 tax credit available to people who lost their jobs due to the outbreak. The workers could use it to offset costs of training such as apprenticeships, certificates and two- and four-year programs, including online learning, through the end of 2021.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., released the plan as Congress assesses how best to boost a U.S. economy wrecked by business shutdowns designed to limit the spread of coronavirus. More than 36 million Americans have filed unemployment claims since the crisis started. The economy has, at least for now, shifted more toward remote work and shopping, eating and recreation at home.
In a statement Wednesday, Klobuchar said the bill would "help Americans gain skills that will be in demand for years to come and position them to rapidly reenter the workforce with increased earning potential as soon as businesses begin hiring again." Sasse added that "we have to make sure that Americans have the skills we need to compete," while Booker said the measure would "ease the barriers to re-entering the workforce."
The bipartisan proposal comes at a time Democratic and Republican lawmakers have taken sharply different views on how to proceed in combating the pandemic. Democrats want to quickly add to the more than $2.5 trillion in relief approved during the pandemic, as they push to send more money to states and municipalities, offer another round of direct payments to individuals and extend an enhanced federal unemployment benefit, among other priorities.
House Democrats passed a sprawling $3 trillion rescue package last week, but the GOP-held Senate has no plans to approve it.
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have focused more on efforts to reboot the economy, pushing to ramp up testing and pass liability protections for doctors and businesses as states restart. After he met with GOP senators on Tuesday, President Donald Trump spoke mostly about his desire to kickstart commerce, saying the U.S. would have "really good" third and fourth quarters.
Klobuchar and a group of Democratic senators also introduced a bill last week to give nonprofits grants they can use to hire workers as they face a cash crunch.