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News from EPI Over 100 economists call on Congress to take bold action to stop mass layoffs

In the last five weeks, over 24 million U.S. workers have applied for unemployment insurance and millions of small businesses are on the brink of collapse. As Congress considers further coronavirus relief, more than 100 prominent economists signed two letters to call on Speaker of the House Pelosi to adopt two bold policy solutions to stop mass layoffs, keep people employed and on employer-sponsored health care, and keep businesses, especially small businesses, intact: a paycheck guarantee and expanded work-sharing.

The letters, organized by the nonprofit Congressional Progressive Caucus Center, include high-profile economists including Robert Reich, Jeffery Sachs, and Robert Pollin.

“Congress has the power to protect ordinary workers during this public health and economic crisis.” said Thea Lee, President of the Economic Policy Institute, “The Paycheck Guarantee Act will help businesses keep workers on payroll until the crisis is over—preserving economic security, benefits, and employment relationships.”

“Work-sharing has a well-established track record of keeping workers on the payroll through recession in Germany and other countries. It has enjoyed support across the political spectrum and from both business and labor,” said Dean Baker, Senior Economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “It is time that the United States modernize and ramp up its work-sharing system so that it is the standard method through which employers deal with downturns in demand.”

The letters were sent to Leader Pelosi on the eve of an ad-hoc remote hearing on economic solutions to the coronavirus hosted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Among the witnesses at that hearing will be Eric Beinhocker, Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the University of Oxford who signed onto both letters.