More than 870,000 Minnesotans have applied for unemployment since March 16th. At the start of next month, those that are receiving the benefits could see $600 less each week.
That’s because the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Insurance program, a provision built into the CARES Act, the first major COVID-19 response bill, will end on July 31. All workers eligible for unemployment, including newly eligible contract workers, could access the funding, which is an additional payment tacked-on to unemployment paid out by the state.
So far there has been no clarity as to whether or not there will be an extension or changes to the original Federal Pandemic Unemployment Insurance program. Republicans, including President Donald Trump, want to lower the amount people will receive each month from the federal government; Democrats either want to increase it or extend it at the same level.
No bill to extend the program has been officially introduced by Republicans. “I envision that this bill doesn’t get done by the end of July,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, told CNBC. That means the extra benefits will expire before any sort of replacement is decided.
Democrats passed a new, $3 trillion coronavirus-relief package back in May, but it was not taken up by the Senate. That bill would have extended the $600 benefit until January 2021. Since then, Democratic leadership has called for Republicans to put out a bill of their own so they can debate the proposals.
“I don’t know when they will get their act together, but they have had plenty of time to be thinking about this and this delay is unnecessary because, by the end of July, unemployment benefits will expire – a number – a moratorium on evictions will expire – many things will expire that are addressed in our legislation,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said on CNN. “So, let’s see what they have to offer, then we can negotiate.”
Republicans planned to reveal their bill on Thursday, but plans were scrapped after the White House and Senate Republicans failed to reach an agreement on what the deal would look like. Broadly, Republicans have been looking at extending the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Insurance program, but with a lower payment — more like $200 a week.
Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican who represents Minnesota’s Eighth, believes that $600 a month discourages Minnesotans from returning to work.
“The majority of the people that Congressman Stauber has spoken to over the last few months have emphasized the need to return to work and reinvigorate the economy,” Kelsey Mix, Stauber’s Communications Director, said. “Unfortunately, the $600 a week for unemployment has resulted in some workers receiving benefits that exceeded the weekly amounts they could expect to earn from work, disincentivizing some from returning to work and preventing some employers from fully operating their business.”
Many economists are concerned that should the $600 payment be decreased, billions of dollars will exit the economy and everyday struggles will be visibly worse, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Rep. Angie Craig, a DFLer who represents Minnesota’s Second District and an often legislative partner with Stauber, said she supports extending the $600 payments until the pandemic is over. “In the next phase of COVID-19 relief we must also include continued funding for testing, contact tracing, Personal Protective Equipment and vaccines as well as funding for our state and local governments,” said Craig.
Rep. Betty McCollum, a DFLer who represents Minnesota’s Fourth District, said the consequence of Republicans refusing to extend the $600 dollar-a-month payment will be severe.
“If Senate Republicans continue to refuse to extend the $600 supplemental unemployment insurance benefit, it will result in millions of American families falling off a financial cliff with no safety net,” McCollum told MinnPost. “It’s as if President Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell are holding the American people and our economy hostage to gain some kind of petty political advantage.”