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What these Americans say they need from congressional pandemic aid

With Congress back in session, lawmakers are considering another round of coronavirus relief. Two of the major sticking points are prolonging increased unemployment benefits and protecting against coronavirus-related lawsuits. What do Americans think about these two issues, as they grapple with the pandemic’s economic fallout? We hear some of their opinions.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    First, let's hear from some of the people who stand to be affected by the legislation that Congress is considering.

    Two of the major sticking points that Lisa just mentioned, extending unemployment benefits beyond the end of the month, and protecting businesses from COVID-related lawsuits, those are at the top of many minds.

  • Stacia Familo-Hopek:

    So, I own a small taproom-focused brewery just outside of Atlanta in Avondale Estates, Georgia. And we have been open just a year now. So, it's been quite an interesting year going through a pandemic.

    We have not been able to hire people to come and work in the kitchen, because they are making more money now with the additional $600 that's coming from the federal government than they were making previously. So, they don't have an incentive to come to work. And they are happy to stay at home, while they're able to collect this paycheck, vs. looking for employment.

  • Latrice Wilson:

    I currently live in Louisville, Kentucky. I actually had a full-time and part-time job. I worked in the hotel industry as my part-time job and in the health care industry as a payroll team supervisor, when I became furloughed as of May 2.

    To simply stereotype us as being that we all are sitting at home and we just want to collect a check and eat bonbons, that is not right. There are some people that are getting paid more. I can't speak for them.

    But, for me, my check, the extra $600 is comparable to what I was getting paid prior to being furloughed and laid off. So, the $600, I'm not sitting at home getting paid extra. I wish that was the case, but I'm not. And I would love to go back to a job and be more stable.

  • Adam Orman:

    I own and I'm the general manager of with my business of L'Oca d'Oro restaurant, an Italian restaurant in Austin, Texas.

    We need access to more jobs. We need grants and/or loans. We need tax rebates and tax credits. Liability protection puts no money in my pocket, puts no money in my employees' pockets, does not create any work for our restaurant or for the people who work in our restaurant.

    And I know that Senator McConnell has said he will not pass anything that doesn't include liability protection. And if he's going to sacrifice all of the things that all the small businesses in this country need to be able to make it through this reduced-revenue, reduced-capacity world to protect employers who are taking risks, that is a wildly misplaced priority.

  • Stacia Familo-Hopek:

    I think having some stated protections would help any business.

    And, in particular, as a small business owner, I can't imagine how I would defend a case if a staff member did try to sue us because they had contracted the virus while working.

    So, yes, I would definitely be in favor of seeing some sort of liability protection put in place for businesses, obviously, with the stipulation that the business was following the current guidelines.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we can hear — and we appreciate everyone who contributed to that — thank you, all four of you.

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