Congress Is ‘Nowhere Near’ a Deal as Unemployment Benefits Expire

Congressional leadership including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, arrive to watch the flag-draped casket of the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., as is carried by a joint services military honor guard from Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Washington. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

By Emiene Wright

July 31, 2020

While the Senate takes a three-day weekend, 20 million Americans who relied on that financial lifeline will not see their benefits renew after midnight.

Despite months of watching the deadline approach, Senate Republicans adjourned on Thursday with no plan to extend the $600 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit for jobless households struggling in the midst of a pandemic. While they take a three-day weekend, 20 million Americans who relied on that financial lifeline will see their benefits end at midnight

The $600 benefit was a sticking point in negotiations with the Democrat-led House, which passed a $3-trillion stimulus proposal mid-May that would extend benefits through January 2021. “Not to act now is not only irresponsible in a humanitarian way, it is irresponsible because it’s only going to cost more, more in terms of lives, livelihood, cost to the budget, cost to our democracy,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at the time

Republicans repeatedly countered that the cash infusion exceeded people’s normal wages and decreased their desire to return to work. “Many businesses are hiring. Many businesses want to hire more people today,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC earlier this month. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other Republicans tried unsuccessfully to strip the weekly unemployment boost from the CARES Act in March, and has repeatedly argued the benefits are too generous and will discourage Americans from working.

RELATED: This Woman’s Unemployment Will Go From $725 to $125 if Congress Doesn’t Extend Benefits. She’s Not Alone.

But a study led by Yale University found no evidence to support that. Results showed that workers receiving larger increases in unemployment benefits tracked similar gains in employment by early May to workers with lower benefit increases. People with larger benefits also resumed working at a similar or slightly quicker rate than others. There are also roughly three times as many jobless Americans as jobs being advertised.

As the July 31 deadline neared, Republicans floated ideas such as decreasing the weekly supplemental benefit, but could not agree on what a slimmed-down bill would even consist of. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged that a number of his colleagues don’t want to pass another bill at all.

“We think [the $3 trillion Democratic proposal is] clearly far beyond what is necessary to get us through this next period as we continue to struggle with coronavirus,” McConnell told PBS’s “NewsHour.” “About 20 of my members think that we’ve already done enough.” 

RELATED: There Are 5 Million Workers in the Arts and Entertainment Industry. They Need Help.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Mnuchin have met four times in the last four days with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, but they are “nowhere near” a deal

On Thursday, the White House offered a short-term weeklong extension of the $600 weekly unemployment benefit, but Democrats rejected it, saying it needs to be part of a far more sweeping bill that would deliver aid to state and local governments, help for the poor and funding for schools and colleges to address the pandemic.

“Do we want to continue to come to an agreement? Absolutely,” said top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer. “But it’s got to meet the gravity of the problem.”

The U.S. saw its worst economic contraction on record Thursday, when gross domestic product for the second quarter sank by 32.9%, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The same week, 1.43 million people filed for unemployment and the national death tally from coronavirus passed 150,000.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.


CATEGORIES: Uncategorized


Local News

Related Stories
Share This