Economist Peter Morici on coronavirus phase 4 stimulus: 'The unemployment benefits are essential'

By Talia Kaplan Fox News

‘This crisis is lasting much longer than we anticipated when the first stimulus was passed in March,’ Morici says.

“Unemployment benefits are essential,” former U.S. International Trade Commission Chief Economist Peter Morici said on Sunday regarding what he thinks should be included in the next coronavirus stimulus bill.

“This crisis is lasting much longer than we anticipated when the first stimulus was passed in March and most of the benefits are running out,” Morici told “Fox & Friends Weekend” on Sunday.

Expanded unemployment benefits are set to run out at the end of July, but millions of people are still out of work after the coronavirus pandemic battered the economy.

Initial weekly jobless claims totaled more than 1.4 million for the week ending July 18, according to data from the Labor Department, bringing the total number of claims to more than 52 million since coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders were implemented in mid-March in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

In March, President Trump signed a more than $2 trillion legislative package to combat the coronavirus pandemic, which included an extra $600 per week tacked onto regular state jobless payments through the end of July.

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“We have at least 15 million people that don’t have many prospects of working in the next few weeks and to say that they’re not working because they’re getting the benefits is silly,” Morici, who is also a business professor at the University of Maryland, said.

He went on to say that he expects “to see the unemployment benefits extended” in the next round of coronavirus aid.

“It would really be nice if they weren’t interrupted,” Morici said. “They don’t have to be at $600 a month. They can be at the level of which they were before, that would be fine.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told “Fox News Sunday” that a Republican version of a coronavirus Phase 4 stimulus bill will be introduced Monday.

White House negotiators have been working with Senate Republicans on “technical issues” in the package this weekend, Mnuchin told host Chris Wallace. The updated stimulus package comes after the $1 trillion proposal fell through just days before.

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“There are an awful lot of places right now where businesses simply can’t reopen,” Morici said on Sunday referencing the violence in cities across the country, including Portland, as well as a spike in coronavirus cases in places like Florida.

“There is also other places where the viruses are such that even if you don’t have lockdowns, the foot traffic is not there,” he added.

“We have tracking data in this crisis that we didn’t have in the financial crisis,” Morici went on to say.

“Are people making reservations through these apps? We also have weekly tracking data on hiring, which we didn’t have in last crises and they all show in the last few weeks the economy turning down.”

Referencing those who think the unemployed are not rushing back to work because of the expanded unemployment benefits, Morici said the benefits can be scaled back “so people aren’t being paid more to be unemployed than they were before.”

“This is not a herculean task and I think it is being demagogued on both side,” Morici said. “Nancy [Pelosi] wants to give everybody more than they earn all the way through February. More free money from the Democrats.”

“The Republicans are playing to their base, some of them, by saying, ‘Oh we don’t want any freeloaders,’” he continued. “The reality is aid is needed, it’s time to compromise to get it done.”

In May, The House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, the most expensive legislation approved by that body in history. While Senate Republicans are aligned in opposition to the House demands, they have been divided over what should be included in another stimulus package.

Fox Business’ Paul Conner and Sumner Park contributed to this report.

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