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$600 unemployment benefit ends next week after Senate GOP refuses to extend it

Even if Congress does extend the payment, experts say there will be a lag in sending them out thanks to overburdened systems.

By Emily Singer - July 21, 2020
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Virus outbreak, unemployment, coronavirus, workers
David Muñoz, a laid off aircraft technician, rests his eyes while waiting for help at an unemployment event at Expo Square in Tulsa, Okla., on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. (Matt Barnard/Tulsa World via AP)

Roughly 25 million Americans are set to lose a $600 weekly boost in their unemployment checks, after Senate Republicans dragged their feet on extending the benefit intended to help workers who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus.

The payments are set to expire on July 31. The House already passed a bill in May extending the payments through the rest of 2020. However Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to take up that bill. And the schedule he’s set out to vote on another coronavirus relief package that could possibly extend the added unemployment insurance benefit will not meet that deadline.

Michele Evermore, an unemployment insurance expert at the National Employment Law Project, said the last checks with that added $600 boost will go out on July 25 or July 26, based on the way states calculate their weekly unemployment benefits.

“Workers right now have so much uncertainty. Congress hasn’t said anything about if the $600 will be in effect going forward. We are now 5 days away from the last benefit week that these are available,” Evermore said in an interview with the American Independent Foundation.

Even if Congress extends the benefit at a later date — whether it be $600 or a different amount — Evermore said it will overwhelm the already overburdened systems, predicting that restarting the program will cause an extra two week delay in the already delayed payment process.

“Once the benefits are turned off in the computer systems, then they have to go back in and reprogram and turn it back on and that’s going to take a few weeks,” Evermore said.

Experts have said the weekly unemployment insurance boost has been the single best help to staving off an even worse economic crisis than the one the United States is currently facing.

It put money in the pockets of Americans, allowing them to both pay for the roof over their heads, as well as inject money into the economy by buying food and other items.

Economists predict that once that added weekly unemployment insurance payment dries up, it will not only lead to “massive human suffering,” but also to less spending on goods and services, plunging the country into further trouble.

Senate Republicans, however, have been against the added unemployment insurance money from the start.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been particularly vocal against the payments, unsuccessfully trying to block them from ever going into effect back when Congress first created the payments in March.

“July the 31st is when this expires, and I promise you, over our dead bodies this will get reauthorized,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said back in April.

The expiration of the $600 benefit comes as the economy is currently stalling in its recovery, as coronavirus cases surge.

Ultimately, 17.8 million Americans remain unemployed, according to the last monthly jobs report from July 2. And another 1.3 million filed for unemployment insurance in the week ending July 11, the 17th straight week claims were at or exceeded 1 million.

@SenateGOP & @WhiteHouse have been dragging their feet for months. Now, the clock is ticking,” Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) tweeted.

“Less than 2 weeks until unemployment insurance benefits expire! [S]houldn’t have waited to the last second.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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