2020 Daily Trail Markers: 6.6 million filed new unemployment claims

Caitlin Conant

Coronavirus continues to take an unprecedented toll on American workers. Nearly 17 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance between March 15 and April 4, as businesses around the country close their doors due to the pandemic. The Labor Department reported on Thursday morning that 6.6 million Americans filed initial unemployment insurance claims for the week ending April 4. That was a slight dip from last week's record number, which the Labor Department has revised to more than 6.8 million claims.

CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster notes from 2009 to 2020, the U.S. economy gained about 20 million jobs. In the past three weeks, a staggering 16.78 million people have for unemployment insurance. It's as if the entire adult populations of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin filed for employment benefits, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The American job crisis is expected to continue growing. Oxford Economics experts project as many as 30 million U.S. jobs could be lost due to Coronavirus. Also on Thursday, the U.S. Senate failed to approve legislation that would have expanded funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans to small businesses to help alleviate the effects of the Coronavirus, according to CBSNews.com political reporter Grace Segers.

FROM THE (PRESUMPTIVE) CANDIDATE

JOE BIDEN

A day after Senator Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race, Joe Biden, the presumptive nominee, took two steps closer to Sanders' signature progressive policies, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports

Today Biden said he now favors dropping the eligibility for Medicare to 60, lowering the current age by five years. This is an effort by the campaign to provide another option for those still working ahead of retirement. Second, Biden wants to forgive student loan debt for debt-holders earning up to $125,000, who attend public colleges, HBCUs, or private minority-serving institutions. 

As for how it would be funded, the plan promises, the campaign floated one pay-for mechanism: repeal the high-income "excess business losses" tax cut in the recently-passed CARES Act, the COVID-19 relief bill. The Biden campaign argues that this only benefits the "richest Americans" and is "unnecessary" for relief efforts. For both ideas, Biden hat-tipped his former rival: "Senator Sanders and his supporters can take pride in their work in laying the groundwork for these ideas," Biden stated in a release. 

ISSUES THAT MATTER

VOTING RIGHTS

Leaders from the Campaign Legal Center hosted an hour-long press call Thursday, outlining ways that states should expand vote-by-mail options for voters amid the COVID-19 public health crisis. Just seven months out from the general election, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell says CLC leaders insisted that taking immediate steps like extending early voting and eliminating excuse-required absentee voting could be game changing and may help prevent some of the issues that arose during the Wisconsin primary earlier this week. 

"We will need a dramatic extension of vote-by-mail options, as well as expanded early voting sites, to spread out in-person voting and drive-by voting options," said CLC president Trevor Potter during the press call. "All of these require adequate funding from the federal government to enable states already in budget crisis status because of the economy, to pay for these alternative voting methods."

Some of the suggested changes could require changes in state law. Because state legislatures are having limited meetings because of nationwide stay-at-home orders in various places, the CLC insists that the time to raise the alarm about solutions for voter access expansion is now. 

"It will be a long time before the nation forgets the harrowing images we saw of determined voters in Wisconsin on Tuesday wearing masks and braving long lines on a cold Wisconsin day at the peak of a global pandemic," said CLC Vice President Paul Smith. "In some sense, the silver lining of the kind of election catastrophe that we've seen in Wisconsin and in Ohio last month, is that this issue has become very real and very tangible because we're seeing the long lines, and we're seeing the election administrators at the county level crying out for assistance," added Jonathan Diaz, who is the Voting Rights Counsel for the CLC. "It's become, I think a very concrete issue that state legislatures and Congress can really…see. It's not like a theoretical policy dispute anymore."

AD WARS

PAC ATTACK

The Pro-Trump America First Action PAC announced it's making a $26.6 million investment in battleground states. CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice reports the effort includes $18.5 million in TV ad buys in Florida and $8 million in TV ad buys in North Carolina. "America First is making the Florida and North Carolina reservations because we are confident we can secure inventory at the best possible rates in these crucial battleground states," said America First Action President Brian O. Walsh in a statement. The PAC will make further decisions as well in May. Last week, America First announced it would invest $10 million in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. These digital, TV and mail efforts through the end of May are focused on criticizing Biden. The move comes as two Democratic Super PACs announce their own new digital investments in battleground states this week, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida. That group of ads focuses on President Trump's coronavirus response.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

The Congressional Leadership Fund PAC, backed by House Republican leaders, announced a $43 million ad booking in targeted districts for November. Their reservation comes just days after the House Majority PAC, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, made its own $51 million ad booking. Both groups made their early buys to lock in lower rates ahead of the November general elections, when presidential and Senate ads will drive up the prices. CLF's list is mainly comprised of markets in the districts of House "Frontline" Democrats, or vulnerable members in Trump-won districts, which Republicans see as their path to reclaim the House. 

CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports that CLF's and HMP's buys, a combined $94 million dollars, overlap in at least nine markets and states. Some notable areas that will see a decent-sized combined investment are Iowa (about $9 million), Philadelphia (more than $12 million) and Atlanta (about $8 million). 

Though both groups say their rollouts are just the first wave of more to come, there are notable gaps in both initial lists. CLF has invested about $5 million in New York and $4.6 million in California, markets HMP has not invested in yet due to it not being a competitive Presidential or Senate battleground. 

HMP has more than $5 million slated across Texas, a battleground being targeted by House Democrats, while the CLF only has a buy slated for Houston, where it's spending $3.1 million in its efforts to unseat Democrat Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher in Texas' 7th District. "House Democrats are panicked about losing their majority and this is the first step towards making that a reality... The investment we're making today is just the first of multiple offense-focused advertising reserves to ensure Nancy Pelosi's days as Speaker are numbered," said CLF President Dan Conston. Republicans need at least 18 seats to win back the House. 

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