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Dems call for $25k in hazard pay for essential workers

Former NY Congresswoman and Independent Women's Forum Board Member Nan Hayworth joins Yahoo FInance’s Zack Guzman to discuss the potential hazard pay plan as part of the phase four COVID-19 relief bill.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to live coverage here on Yahoo Finance. I am Zack Guzman. Right now, we're digging into the question of deficit spending here in the US, as, of course, we move past the age of that $2 trillion spending program to combat the economic slowdown tied to the coronavirus. And right now, we're seeing efforts underway to expand the next round of stimulus spending here.

Of course, we could see deficits rise to about 18% this year, which would, of course, be the highest totals we've seen since World War II. And right now, Senate Democrats are negotiating a plan, introducing a plan to add about $25,000 in hazard pay for workers that are deemed essential here. That would include grocery store workers, truck drivers, as well as medical staff on the front lines, helping to combat the rise in coronavirus cases.

But it does raise questions about how much spending is needed and what might be not needed right now. For more on that, I want to bring on former New York Congresswoman and Independent Women's Forum board member Nan Hayworth.

And then when we look at this, I mean, you're perfectly suited to weigh in here. You were the-- you were a doctor when you were serving in Congress. And when you look at this, I mean, what are your thoughts right now on this particular plan here to introduce $25,000 in stimulus pay for these workers affected?

NAN HAYWORTH: You know, Zack, obviously, these frontline workers are dealing very admirably with a crisis under the most difficult circumstances we've ever faced as a country, pretty much. So I'm all for providing them with help and rewarding them for valorous service.

We do have to think, though, about how exactly we can best accomplish that because right now, yes, we've got a whole lot of Americans who are out of work and need direct aid, just to be able to continue to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, small businesses that are collapsing.

So the most immediate needs are really in those areas. And I think if we're proposing further funding of programs related to this, rewards for those who are employed but are under great stress, then show me where in the federal budget people are willing to-- members of Congress and senators-- are willing to withdraw funding so that they can preferentially fund those kinds of efforts.

And I think if they can do that-- and Zack, that's always the sticking point and I experienced it when I was in Congress-- nobody wants to cut budgets because someone's ox is getting gored. And usually, it's theirs, in some way. So I think it's very easy to propose all kinds of generous programs, but, you know, we have to have some compassion for all the folks who are also paying for those programs and will continue to do so in a time of great deficits and debt.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, you kind of rode that wave. We saw the backlash, too, a lot of the bailout packages that were mostly targeted towards Wall Street. We saw the movement that was sparked by that.

And now you're kind of dealing with the PPP program, the Paycheck Protection Program, branded much differently in terms of putting aside $350 billion. Now Secretary Mnuchin wants an extra $250 billion for that program. That is kind of branded as money supporting these small businesses and making sure that Americans don't get let go.

But we're seeing that kind of expanded now to even some larger corporations, Shake Shack being one of those larger corporations that's applying for aid. So it might be moving a little bit beyond just the idea of small businesses here.

Are there any certain dangers tied to that, though, when we're thinking about how much more politically favorable some of these things might get through, especially when we talk about the votes here when you're trying to pass things by a voice vote, and kind of how it just becomes, all right, let's work to get this through. Because there are people in need here.

When you talk about a $13 per hour raise tied to Senator Schumer's Heroes Fund Program that we were just discussing, I mean, I'm not sure if, politically, you can get in the way of something like that.

NAN HAYWORTH: Well, the way we should deal with it is, you know, calmly and rationally and explain where the most desperate needs are. And they are definitely among the folks. And it is concentrated in certain industries, as we know in the hospitality industry, especially.

And it is obviously big companies that employ a lot of local workers have franchisees. You know, there are various ways you can understand where the job losses are. We want to help people keep food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. And I don't think it's incredibly difficult to define where those people are. They should all be directed toward workers.

And, you know, and obviously, we have stakeholders and shareholders who we don't want to see harmed over time. But first and foremost, it is about workers. And for the rest of it, I think we have to either consider some form perhaps of a tax credit program, or again, if there are ways in which budget dollars are shifted. You know, we take from one area, say, the Department of Education that actually isn't at all productive, and shift it all over into bonuses for frontline workers.

I think that we can talk about, but I think everybody has to objectively remember, and calmly remember, that we probably can't wisely afford to give incredibly large bonuses on top of an already strained budget, when folks are still employed and still getting their employer benefits in the face of others who are not. And that's the challenge, Zack. You know, we all have to think thoughtfully about these things.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and also the challenge, too, when you think on that state level, some of those budgets that will need to be balanced as well, moving forward without any additional federal aid, though it does sound like that might be something we could see in a phase four stimulus bill.

I want to shift to the updates that we've got today on the presidential front, or at least, on the election for the presidency. Because Senator Bernie Sanders announced that he would be suspending his campaign, leaving just essentially Joe Biden there to get the nomination to go up against Trump. Of course, it is April. And it's a little bit earlier than I guess we've seen in years past.

But now with all of that momentum building between Joe Biden and now President Trump dealing with a crisis of his own on a national scale, how do you think that this shifts the element of the 2020 election right now?

Of course, we've seen President Trump generally hold up all right in terms of his approval rating and the way that that's played out. What are your thoughts on how this could change things here, as we get set for a Biden versus Trump 2020 election?

NAN HAYWORTH: Yeah, I think there's a large fairly substantial proportion of the Bernie Sanders electorate who are not going to migrate with him toward Vice President Biden for a number of reasons.

Now, the more, of course, Vice President Biden adopts elements of Bernie Sanders' program, the less Joe Biden will appeal to a lot of voters, especially in swing states who might be in manufacturing fields, especially with all the Green New Deal ideas that Bernie so fervently embraces. That's not going to go over well in, say, Pennsylvania.

You know, there's a lot of dynamics that are still up in the air in this election. Because of course, so much of what President Trump was running on, rightly so, was economic strength and robustness.

So I think, you know, if we start seeing a recovery and a return coming toward the middle of the summer, later summer, fall, I think, you know, Biden supporters will be in an interesting position versus the president. And I think it's going to be very challenging for them to appeal substantially to Bernie Sanders' base, who are deeply populist.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and you wonder what that might change in terms of the dynamic for getting a phase four deal or other programs put through here, as we talk about making workers whole as well. But for now, Nan Hayworth, former New York Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

NAN HAYWORTH: Thanks, Zack.