State Watch

California officials eye $600 state unemployment benefit

California officials are considering instituting an up to $600 weekly state unemployment benefit if Congress does not extend its pandemic benefit that expires this month.

State Democrats have expressed support for the weekly benefit for jobless Californians as part of a $100 billion stimulus plan to bring about job creation and keep the economy moving, the Los Angeles Times reported.

State unemployment checks will fall back to a weekly average of about $338 unless there is action by state or federal lawmakers to extend enhanced unemployment benefits due to the coronavirus pandemic.

California lawmakers said they would borrow funding for increased unemployment benefits from a federal trust fund, from which the state has borrowed $6.5 billion to pay claims since March. The borrowed funding would be paid back by increasing taxes for employers in future years, according to the Times.

California borrowed $10.7 billion during the Great Recession last decade and finished paying off the amounts in 2018 with raised employer taxes.

The state lawmakers’ consideration comes as Congress debates how much additional unemployment benefits should be included in the latest coronavirus relief bill.

The GOP has proposed lowering the $600 weekly additional payments to $200 per week, with many arguing that the current benefits pay more than some people used to make, making them less inclined to go back to work.

Democrats in the House have proposed continuing the $600 weekly unemployment payments through Jan. 31, though House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that Democrats are flexible on the figure as they negotiate with Republicans.

State Democrats argue that a drop in funding could put many Californians at risk of facing eviction and could intensify the state’s homeless problem. They also hope to extend unemployment payments to undocumented immigrants who have lost their jobs during the pandemic, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“Millions of Californians are suffering in this economic downturn, and Republicans in Washington, D.C., don’t seem to care,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D) said in a statement obtained by the Chronicle.

California has paid about $50 billion in jobless benefits since March and processed 8.7 million claims from unemployed residents. The congressional approval of increased unemployment benefits in April led to Californians receiving an average of $940 weekly, according to the Times.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has not said whether he will back state supplemental unemployment benefits or the stimulus proposal in general.

“I would be remiss to comment until I have a chance to review the details,” Newsom said at a Monday news conference. “We have to include a framework of bringing people along as we reopen our economy.”

Last week, the governor said he had confidence in Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to obtain more congressional help for unemployed state residents, according to the Times.

Newsom’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Tags California Coronavirus coronavirus stimulus coronavirus unemployment federal unemployment Gavin Newsom Nancy Pelosi Pandemic Steny Hoyer Unemployment Unemployment benefits

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