Democrats are renewing calls for Republicans to drop their opposition to extending an expanded unemployment program that’s set to expire at the end of July as increases in coronavirus cases in some states threaten to extend the deep economic damage from the pandemic.
On Tuesday, Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Congress “must act” to extend the $600 weekly boost to unemployment insurance, while Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) stressed Friday in a tweet that the coronavirus crisis is “not over” and that American workers would need the added benefits to “weather this storm.”
Republicans, meanwhile, have expressed widespread opposition towards extending the expanded unemployment program, arguing it disincentives work.
Congress has been split about how to tackle further relief as the country reopens, with both parties viewing an American recovery much differently: Republicans predict a quick, sharp rebound, while Democrats foresee a slow, painful road back.
Some of the divide has been based on recent conflicting economic data: the unemployment rate dipped to 13.3% in May, but remains at recession levels; weekly jobless claims continue to slow, but millions remain unemployed; and analysts predict the labor market’s recovery is likely to take years.
Instead of extending the unemployment program, Republicans have expressed interest in “back-to-work bonuses” — $450 payments for unemployed workers on top of their weekly wages who return to work; Larry Kudlow, a top White House economic adviser, reiterated the Trump administration’s support for the proposal on Monday.
There’s bipartisan agreement more needs to be done for coronavirus relief, but White House officials and Republican negotiators decided last week they won’t hold negotiations on the next round of stimulus legislation until after Congress returns from recess at the end of July.
“This crisis has hit communities of color the hardest,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said during a congressional hearing Tuesday, stressing the impact of the pandemic on Black unemployment. “Congress can help those who need it most by reauthorizing expanded unemployment, and by doing it now.”
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell agreed that Congress should act to provide more aid to the unemployed on Tuesday, telling lawmakers that many of the 20 million or so Americans who have lost jobs during the outbreak “will not be able… to go back to their old jobs or even their old industries.”
“We have a long road ahead of us to get these people back to work.”
In the $2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress in March, lawmakers included a $600 across-the-board boost to states’ weekly unemployment payouts for four months….