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Republican plan for $200 weekly unemployment extension would mean a benefit cut for 30 million Americans

July 27, 2020, 6:50 PM UTC
Updated July 28, 2020, 4:50 PM UTC

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Around 30 million jobless Americans are in the process of receiving their final $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit, which expired over the weekend. The $1 trillion stimulus plan that Senate Republicans will release Monday will reportedly cut and replace that benefit.

The Republican bill would reduce the unemployment benefit bonus—which is paid on top of state benefits—from $600 to $200 per week for the next two months, according to Bloomberg News. After that period, the benefit would transition into covering 70% of the unemployed persons’ previous income through the end of the year.

States have already said it would take weeks for to create systems to pay laid-off workers a percentage of their previous pay. States say a lump sum is easier to distribute. That’s why the Republican plan would pay out a weekly $200 benefit before transitioning it to the 70% replacement.

More than 17.3 million Americans were on state unemployment rolls and receiving the $600 weekly benefit as of the week ending July 11. But if you include the 13.2 million getting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
benefits and the 940,113 on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, in all 31.4 million Americans were receiving the $600 bonus before it expired. That’s larger than the population of the country’s 19 smallest states.

For months Republican leaders have said they wanted to move away from the $600 weekly unemployment benefit. The reason? Around 7 in 10 Americans receiving unemployment benefits are earning more than they did at their job, which businesses and Republican leaders argue could deter workers from returning to work.

Read: Everything we know so far about the second round of stimulus checks

“We’re not going to use taxpayer money to pay people more to stay home,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to a group of reporters outside the Whitehouse over the weekend.

The Heroes Act passed by House Democrats would’ve extended the $600 weekly benefit into January 2021. It’s unclear if Democrats are willing to allow the unemployment benefit to shrink, let alone to $200.

A Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll of 2,802 U.S. adults between July 17 and 21 found 68% of the country supports the federal government extending the extra $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit beyond its July expiration. But there is a political divide: Only 48% of Republicans support extending the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit beyond July, versus 86% of Democrats.