Congress in disagreement as 30.5 million go first week without $600 federal unemployment benefit
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Congress has yet to come to an agreement for extending or replacing the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit, which paid its final benefit for the week ending July 25.
That means the 30.5 million jobless Americans who were receiving the benefit will go their first week without the $600 check.
“On certain issues we made progress, on certain issues we’re still very far apart,” treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters on Capitol Hill after leaving a meeting with Democratic leaders on Friday without a deal or short-term fix.
On Monday, Senate Republicans rolled out their stimulus bill, which included reducing the federal unemployment benefit bonus—which is paid on top of state benefits—from $600 to $200 per week for the next two months. After that period, the benefit would transition into covering 70% of the unemployed person’s previous income, up to a max of $500, through the end of the year,
As debate ensues on the wider stimulus plan, Republicans pushed Thursday to pass a short-term extension of the $600 unemployment benefit. But Democrats rejected that temporary fix.
“[A] one-week extension is good if you have a bill, and you’re working it out, the details, the writing of it, legislative counsel, Congressional Budget Office, Rules Committee. That’s what a one-week extension is about. It’s worthless unless you are using it for [that] purpose,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Friday after meeting with Republicans.
Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer would like to see the $600 benefit extended through the end of the year as apart of a wider stimulus bill. The $3 trillion Heroes Act passed by House Democrats in May would’ve done just that, extending the $600 weekly benefit into January 2021.
Republicans have opposed extending the extra $600 weekly unemployment payment through the end of the year, given that the payment means 7 in 10 jobless Americans are making more not working than they did while employed. Republicans and some business leaders believe the benefit deters jobless Americans from searching for work. Meanwhile, Democrats believe the $600 weekly payment is boosting household incomes and staving off deeper drops in consumer spending.
But the enhanced unemployment insurance provisions are not the only item holding up the wider stimulus bill. Republicans and Democrats are also divided on funding for state governments—something Democrats demand—and COVID-19 lawsuit immunity, a demand by the GOP.
Americans who were receiving the $600 weekly benefit include the 17 million Americans on state unemployment rolls. But there were also 12.4 million getting it through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and the 1.1 million on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. In all, 30.5 million Americans were receiving the $600 bonus before it expired.