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Old 04-27-2020, 11:18 AM
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CARES Act: Employees angry because they could earn more from unemployment than their jobs


CNBC ran a story recently about a spa owner who obtained Paycheck Protection loans of over $220,000 from the government (as part of the recent Congress-passed coronavirus relief bill) and thought her employees would be overjoyed that they get to keep their jobs. Instead, they were furious because they could have collected more money in unemployment than they would have by continuing to work.

The CARES Act has set unemployment so generously high that now there is a perverse incentive for (some) people to go unemployed rather than stay at their jobs.
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Old 04-27-2020, 11:37 AM
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That's certainly a point of view.
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Old 04-27-2020, 11:46 AM
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The CARES Act has set unemployment so generously high that now there is a perverse incentive for (some) people to go unemployed rather than stay at their jobs.
Lindsey Graham, is that you?
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Old 04-27-2020, 11:59 AM
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No, it's CNBC:

https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/cnbc/

The OP is my cite.

Last edited by Sage Rat; 04-27-2020 at 12:00 PM.
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Old 04-27-2020, 12:28 PM
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OP, was your intent to debate the merits of the policy? Determine how common this is? Something else?
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Old 04-27-2020, 12:44 PM
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OP, was your intent to debate the merits of the policy? Determine how common this is? Something else?
Debating whether or not the CARES Act set unemployment benefits too high. The urgent nature of the coronavirus situation probably rushed the bill through without enough debate or scrutiny - not that Congress had much choice, but the CNBC story does give credence to what some Congressmen argued - that if benefits were too high, it might perversely incentivize people to seek a layoff than to continue being employed. Indeed, we had a Doper boss who started a thread about this very topic in IMHO a few weeks ago, regarding an employee of his.
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Old 04-27-2020, 12:48 PM
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I suppose those people can quit and hope they get a job when things get better. The fact that some people are upset isn't a reason to change a policy. Considered reflection might be a good idea...so maybe around Jan 2021.
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Old 04-27-2020, 01:03 PM
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Debating whether or not the CARES Act set unemployment benefits too high. The urgent nature of the coronavirus situation probably rushed the bill through without enough debate or scrutiny - not that Congress had much choice, but the CNBC story does give credence to what some Congressmen argued - that if benefits were too high, it might perversely incentivize people to seek a layoff than to continue being employed. Indeed, we had a Doper boss who started a thread about this very topic in IMHO a few weeks ago, regarding an employee of his.
Thanks for the clarification. Obviously as benefits increase, the incentive to not return to work increases. That's always the case. I don't think the mere existence of perverse incentives is sufficient to not enact some policy. So then we're left balancing pluses and minuses along the sliding scale. Which I will think on after my call with clients that starts now.
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Old 04-27-2020, 01:03 PM
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This is going to vary depending on high your wages were beforehand, and that will vary with expensive vs. cheaper states, right? So, to fix this, they would have had to had smaller supplements for low wage states (often, red states) and more help for high wage state (often blue states). Since Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump's position on blue states is "fuck you and the horse you rode in on), that wasn't going to fly. So, low wage states are getting more than they need, and high wage states are getting less.

I'll see if I can find the cite before my five minutes is up.

Here's a good cite, although the red state/blue state correlation isn't perfect of course:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/...ronavirus.html

It shows the states that are giving out more than wages vs less than wages, once the CARES Act supplement is included.

Last edited by RitterSport; 04-27-2020 at 01:05 PM.
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Old 04-27-2020, 01:04 PM
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An additional $600/week is probably too high in principle, yeah. That works out $15/hr if one were to work 40 hr/week for the same $600, and this is on top of whatever state benefits one might receive. Median personal income in the US is only $40k a year or $19.23 / hr (assuming 40 hrs/week x 52 weeks/year).

That said, the $600 bump only lasts through July 25. If you have a steady job, I'd think you'd have to be fairly risk tolerant and/or be earning a pretty crappy wage to make the uncertainty worth it. I can see that if you were making minimum wage, "please lay me off" might be an attractive option for the next three months.
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Old 04-27-2020, 01:07 PM
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The initial draft was to give employees 100% of their salary/wage, but apparently most state systems couldn't be updated to do that in a short period of time. So what got settled on was the blanket $600 increase, which would get the median worker to 100%. Not the policy anyone wanted, but probably the best of the available outcomes.

Cite: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/27/how-...-paycheck.html
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Old 04-27-2020, 01:55 PM
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Debating whether or not the CARES Act set unemployment benefits too high. The urgent nature of the coronavirus situation probably rushed the bill through without enough debate or scrutiny - not that Congress had much choice, but the CNBC story does give credence to what some Congressmen argued - that if benefits were too high, it might perversely incentivize people to seek a layoff than to continue being employed. Indeed, we had a Doper boss who started a thread about this very topic in IMHO a few weeks ago, regarding an employee of his.
Hers. flatlined started it and she's a lady.
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Old 04-27-2020, 02:42 PM
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The initial draft was to give employees 100% of their salary/wage, but apparently most state systems couldn't be updated to do that in a short period of time. So what got settled on was the blanket $600 increase, which would get the median worker to 100%. Not the policy anyone wanted, but probably the best of the available outcomes.

Cite: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/27/how-...-paycheck.html
It's also good stimulus. Most of it will get spent. In the grand scheme of things, I am not too horrified at the idea that some people will get to live like their betters on $3k a month.

Last edited by Manda JO; 04-27-2020 at 02:42 PM.
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Old 04-27-2020, 02:55 PM
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the CNBC story does give credence to what some Congressmen argued - that if benefits were too high, it might perversely incentivize people to seek a layoff than to continue being employed.
Not exactly. Congressmen, such as Graham, were arguing that people would quit in order to go on the dole, completely oblivious to the fact that quitting would make them ineligible.
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Old 04-27-2020, 03:02 PM
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It's also good stimulus. Most of it will get spent. In the grand scheme of things, I am not too horrified at the idea that some people will get to live like their betters on $3k a month.
Again, I think it's a better choice than the others that were on the table, but in a perfect world where state unemployment systems were more easily malleable, paying people more to not work than they'd make working is not a good idea. If you really want the stimulative effect, give people the money and don't make it contingent on being unemployed.
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Old 04-27-2020, 03:42 PM
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Conservatives always seem to see incentives as "perverse". Why is that?

I mean, I get it. How dare the low-wage worker decide that they'd rather stay at home and watch TV than put their life at risk for low wages and all the other shittiness that comes with thankless menial jobs. But the problem isn't in the hand-outs designed to help people weather an emergency situation. The problem is that we have so many so-called essential jobs where people are treated like trash and are undervalued.

How about we require businesses to pay their employees more when society is under lockdown mode? If your business can't stay afloat if everyone gets paid wages comparable to what they could get staying at home, then maybe it isn't really an essential business. Or perhaps we can collectively put pressure of federal and state government to give essential workers a bonus, totally bypassing their employer's pocketbook.

Instead of a "perverse incentive", we could provide a "morally upstanding" incentive. But this would require having enough political will. As long as we have a bunch of conservatives in Congress, it isn't going to happen.
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Old 04-27-2020, 05:07 PM
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Conservatives always seem to see incentives as "perverse". Why is that?

I mean, I get it. How dare the low-wage worker decide that they'd rather stay at home and watch TV than put their life at risk for low wages and all the other shittiness that comes with thankless menial jobs. But the problem isn't in the hand-outs designed to help people weather an emergency situation. The problem is that we have so many so-called essential jobs where people are treated like trash and are undervalued.

How about we require businesses to pay their employees more when society is under lockdown mode? If your business can't stay afloat if everyone gets paid wages comparable to what they could get staying at home, then maybe it isn't really an essential business. Or perhaps we can collectively put pressure of federal and state government to give essential workers a bonus, totally bypassing their employer's pocketbook.

Instead of a "perverse incentive", we could provide a "morally upstanding" incentive. But this would require having enough political will. As long as we have a bunch of conservatives in Congress, it isn't going to happen.
Well now we know who clicked the link in the OP and who didn't. The workers in question are being paid by their employer to stay home. They are not being asked to risk their lives. They are not essential employees. This is not an essential business.
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Old 04-27-2020, 05:08 PM
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Again, I think it's a better choice than the others that were on the table, but in a perfect world where state unemployment systems were more easily malleable, paying people more to not work than they'd make working is not a good idea. If you really want the stimulative effect, give people the money and don't make it contingent on being unemployed.
Money that replaces lost income has a higher stimulative effect than additional money. Money to low income households, likewise. I'm not going to spend my stimulus money at all, I'm going to save it, because I can. If you want money to circulate, give it to people who can't afford to save it.

So yeah, I'm comfortable thinking of this as a bonus stimulus. Especially if it means BK lays off Suzie and gives Johnny her hours, rather than both of them having their hours cut in half.
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Old 04-27-2020, 05:25 PM
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Deriding a policy because a few people may "overbenefit" is the flip side of the all-too-common insistence by some people that if a new policy hurts even one person it shouldn't be implemented.

Policies for the tens or hundreds of millions should be evaluated by the overall good or harm they do. People who try to make their case by pointing to the very few outliers should be shouted down, ostracized, and never be allowed to take part in public discussion again.
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Old 04-27-2020, 05:43 PM
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Again, I think it's a better choice than the others that were on the table, but in a perfect world where state unemployment systems were more easily malleable, paying people more to not work than they'd make working is not a good idea. If you really want the stimulative effect, give people the money and don't make it contingent on being unemployed.
Money that replaces lost income has a higher stimulative effect than additional money. Money to low income households, likewise. I'm not going to spend my stimulus money at all, I'm going to save it, because I can. If you want money to circulate, give it to people who can't afford to save it.

So yeah, I'm comfortable thinking of this as a bonus stimulus. Especially if it means BK lays off Suzie and gives Johnny her hours, rather than both of them having their hours cut in half.
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Old 04-27-2020, 05:48 PM
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Instead, they were furious because they could have collected more money in unemployment than they would have by continuing to work.
...the obvious conclusion here is that employers are underpaying their staff. The solution for these furious employers who are underpaying their staff is to pay their staff more.
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Old 04-27-2020, 05:57 PM
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...the obvious conclusion here is that employers are underpaying their staff. The solution for these furious employers who are underpaying their staff is to pay their staff more.
I think you misread the article. It's not the employer who is furious, it's the employees.
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Old 04-27-2020, 06:03 PM
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...the obvious conclusion here is that employers are underpaying their staff.
That was my immediate thought after reading the article linked in the OP.
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Old 04-27-2020, 06:10 PM
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Money that replaces lost income has a higher stimulative effect than additional money. Money to low income households, likewise. I'm not going to spend my stimulus money at all, I'm going to save it, because I can. If you want money to circulate, give it to people who can't afford to save it.
So, back to the topic at hand: we're talking about income that is surplus to the worker's normal salary. It's not just replacing lost income - it's additional money. If we want to give out that additional money (which we should!), there's no reason to tie it to unemployment. Except for the real-world constraints with implementing the 100% salary replacement policy, that would make the ideal plan possible.

Quote:
So yeah, I'm comfortable thinking of this as a bonus stimulus. Especially if it means BK lays off Suzie and gives Johnny her hours, rather than both of them having their hours cut in half.
So explain to me again why it's desirable for Suzie to not only have all her time free, but also make more than Johnny in this scenario? Because remember, again, what I'm arguing is ideal is that both Suzie and Johnny make the same amount, and it's more than what they were earning in January.
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Old 04-27-2020, 06:11 PM
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Not all incentives are inherently perverse. A perverse incentive is one that rewards people more for doing the wrong thing. Like, with normal unemployment that pays a percentage of what you'd make working, the incentive isn't perverse, because you still get more by working than by not working.

And these payments are going to help people, certainly, but they're not going to be much of a stimulus. People always spend money on essentials. In an ordinary economic downturn, though, they stop spending on non-essentials. That snowballs the downturn, because it means less money to the people who provide those non-essentials. In that environment, a relatively small stimulus can have a large effect, because people start buying non-essentials more, so other people have more money, so they spend more too, and so on.

But this isn't an ordinary downturn. Plenty of people right now would like to spend money on non-essentials, but they can't, because everything non-essential is shut down. Give those folks more money, and what can they do with it? It'll just sit there, and not have a multiplicative effect.
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Old 04-27-2020, 06:34 PM
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... Instead, they were furious because they could have collected more money in unemployment than they would have by continuing to work.
....
That's weird to me, because when I agreed to the terms of my job, the boss said: "If you do this for the company, I'll pay you this." And I accepted it. I was in favor of it. Anything beyond that, it's on me. I'm grateful to be still working during this weirdness, and I pay my bills and feed myself with the money I make. But that's me.

Last edited by bobot; 04-27-2020 at 06:34 PM.
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Old 04-27-2020, 06:53 PM
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I think you misread the article. It's not the employer who is furious, it's the employees.
Its the employees who are furious at the boss (for failing to match unemployment) but its the boss who is complaining about the stimulus making her look bad. I don't see any of the workers complaining about the unemployment being too generous.
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Old 04-27-2020, 07:00 PM
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I think you misread the article. It's not the employer who is furious, it's the employees.
And what this particular group of employees may be missing is the following:
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Originally Posted by Caldazar View Post
That said, the $600 bump only lasts through July 25. If you have a steady job, I'd think you'd have to be fairly risk tolerant and/or be earning a pretty crappy wage to make the uncertainty worth it.
The critical part in the decisionmaking is: The supplemental unemployment benefit carries with it NO requirement of the beneficiary being reinstated if and when the employer gets back to business, while the PPP is conditioned on employee retention. Yet I strongly suspect they would have expected the shop to lay them off and then as a matter of course rehire them once they opened back.

Those employees may even be unaware themselves that they are gambling on that the shop will fail anyway nd not be there come August, so they are going to be unemployed anyway, but at least will have enjoyed the "bonus" above their regular pay while it lasted.



And yes, adding the FTE equivalent of $15/hr was a clever way to seed in the workforce the notion of $15/hr as the income baseline. Nicely played.

Last edited by JRDelirious; 04-27-2020 at 07:04 PM.
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Old 04-27-2020, 07:08 PM
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Damn timeout...

...and the Payroll Protection Program does NOT allow for a retained position paid with those funds to be paid more than you paid that same position before the legislation was enacted. So she cannot boost them to "match" the supplemental unemployment.
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Old 04-28-2020, 12:26 AM
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Hers. flatlined started it and she's a lady.
Thank you, I am always a lady, except for those times when I'm not

I was bothered that my part time employee wanted to be laid off so he could get the extra money while having the full expectation that he would be rehired after things got back to normalish. I felt that he was taking advantage of the taxpayers who were going to be funding the stimulus bonus cause money don't grow on trees.

That was years ago subjectively, and I'm not that sure that I would feel the same way if it happened today.

Of course, in this case, the end result would have been the same. If I was allowed to lay him off so he could quadrupedal his weekly income, the company would have to lay off all of the non-essential workers so they could also increase their income, while costing the company tons of money in their increased unemployment insurance costs.
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Old 04-28-2020, 04:42 AM
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But the problem isn't in the hand-outs designed to help people weather an emergency situation. The problem is that we have so many so-called essential jobs where people are treated like trash and are undervalued.
This is one way to think about the problem. The government had to quickly come up with a way to keep the temporarily unemployed from crashing and burning during this pandemic. Their solution was to boost unemployment.

This is fine, but the problem is that we have a whole class of worker for whom this bump in emergency relief is, by itself, more than they normally get paid for working. Of course the employees are furious. Half of Capitol Hill has no problem telling those workers that their productive work isn't worth $600/wk, yet decided on that amount for the weekly bonus checks they're handing out to help people through a temporary but difficult time.

Last edited by Cheesesteak; 04-28-2020 at 04:43 AM.
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Old 04-28-2020, 05:23 AM
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It seems to me that those angry people are looking at it shortsightedly. The main difference is they have a job while those unemployed don't, and that goes forward. Once the coronavirus is 'normalized' or is immuned away, the damage to the economy with remain for quite some time. People will not have the disposable income that they once enjoyed in the mass numbers, thus many businesses that rely on high profit margin items will suffer. It would be expected to be tough to get a job to some degree, so better to maintain one now then enjoy unemployment now and can't find a job later.

In that it does sound like this anger is not real as stated, the only anger would be from the workers who's work would expose them and families to the virus.

Last edited by kanicbird; 04-28-2020 at 05:24 AM.
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Old 04-28-2020, 06:29 AM
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It seems to me that those angry people are looking at it shortsightedly.

It would be expected to be tough to get a job to some degree, so better to maintain one now then enjoy unemployment now and can't find a job later.
It's easier to take the long view when your income is more than $450 per week. Having a job that earns you a bit more than minimum wage for not quite a full 40 hour week isn't the sort of job that offers a worker financial security. It's the result of a decades long effort to maximize the value of capital by minimizing the value (cost) of labor. You cut the cost of labor, you cut the value of having a job.

That person at her spa who earns $450 (30hrs@$15) a week would get $825 on unemployment. You are suggesting that they essentially forego $375 per week, 83% of their normal pay, for an untold number of weeks, to ensure that they can retain their job at a spa that may well go belly up anyway.
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Old 04-28-2020, 06:42 AM
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Looks like the breakeven annual wage with this policy in Washington State is around $60k.

It seems like a flat weekly increase doesn't make much sense. If we want to stimulate, then ideally we would stimulate separately, not contingent on employment status. In this case it's federal funds paying their salary vs fed funds paying their unemployment suplement. But given the computer issues referenced above and the need for expediency, I can't get myself too worked up by the odd boundary cases.

However, if we wanted to think long-term, I would propose a different way to go about unemployment insurance.
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Old 04-28-2020, 12:43 PM
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This was as mentioned partly the result of the rush to pass something, anything, quickly!!! without having to convene Regular Order, so broad one size-fits-all provisions were crammed into the deal. You get "small business" loans on such generous terms that even Shake Shack can get it (and the pot runs out in three weeks), I get flat $15/hr unemployment benefits even if it means it's higher than some regular wages (and in some places after a month it's still not getting paid because the state system is so obsolete it can't handle even this AND a massive spike in applications).
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Old 04-28-2020, 12:55 PM
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That was my immediate thought after reading the article linked in the OP.
Normally, when you double someone's salary by "being let go" , I'd be mad too if I was asked to go back to work making less than I did off of work
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