Laid off workers would see a lapse in the additional benefits — reducing their weekly income by more than two-thirds in many states.
Congress will likely allow the $600-a-week boost in unemployment benefits to expire at the end of this month if lawmakers follow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed timeline for the next round of pandemic aid.
When the Senate returns to Washington from recess next Monday, McConnell said he will begin “socializing” the GOP’s next rescue package and start the legislative process with Democrats. He said during an event in Corbin, Ky., Monday he expects that a bill will come together “sometime within the next three weeks, beginning next week.”
The $600 additional weekly unemployment benefit created under the March CARES Act is set to expire in the weeks “ending on or before July 31.” But because most jobless benefit payments end on Saturdays, economists say the last payment will actually land on the week ending July 25.
Although the GOP has recently signaled that jobless aid may be a part of the next rescue package, unless another bill is signed by the president before the aid expires, laid off workers will see a lapse in the additional benefits — reducing their weekly income by more than two-thirds in many states.
“Because state unemployment benefits need to be extended by July 25 in order to be processed by states administering their programs, McConnell’s announcement that the Senate will not even begin drafting or negotiating legislation until next week effectively makes a lapse in those expanded payments unavoidable,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), vice chair of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, told POLITICO in a statement.
Beyer said the Democrats’ HEROES Act, which passed the House in May, would extend those benefits through the end of January.
“Now we are out of time,” Beyer said. “All of this could have been avoided if McConnell had acknowledged the economic emergency facing our country and acted on it sooner.”
Republicans and the Trump administration have opposed extending the benefitat $600 a week but have recently indicated that unemployment insurance could be on the table in the next aid plan.
During another event at Rockcastle Regional Hospital Monday in Mount Vernon, Ky., McConnell said the next package would have a “continued emphasis on jobs, meaning unemployment insurance for those who are unable to get back to work.”
He said he’s been discussing the next legislation with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said last week the GOP would “figure out an extension” to the enhanced benefits that works “for companies and for people who will still be unemployed.”
White House spokesperson Judd Deere told POLITICO that “maintaining UI benefits at current levels does not incentivize returning to work,” but added that “UI reform is a priority for this White House in any phase four package and we are in ongoing discussions with the Hill.”
Once the additional unemployment payment ends, out-of-work Americans could see their benefits drop by anywhere from 50 to 85 percent according to Century Foundation fellow Andrew Stettner.
The size of an unemployment check depends on the recipient’s income and on rules that vary from state to state, but the average weekly payment over the past year was $342, according to the Labor Department.
About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter.