GOP looks at reducing unemployment enhancement to $200-$400 per week: report
GOP lawmakers are considering reducing emergency unemployment benefits to between $200 and $400 per week as federal spending during the coronavirus pandemic continues to skyrocket, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
It’s unclear what number GOP lawmakers will land on, but the Post report, citing aides, said $200 per week appeared to be more likely.
The issue of extending the increase in unemployment benefits is seen as one of the big sticking points as Congress seeks to reach a deal on a new coronavirus relief package in the coming weeks.
A number of Republicans have voiced opposition to the $600 per week increase given concerns about the deficit and that it would leave some workers gaining more money through benefits than they would through work. Some GOP lawmakers said the benefits would as a result serve as a disincentive to people returning to work. Democrats assert that more money boosts the amount of spending in the economy.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to release a new package, estimated to reach $1 trillion, this week. The House has already approved a $3 trillion package that extends the $600 per week increase, which is set to expire at the end of the month.
The weekly payment will rely on how much of the Senate stimulus bill is dedicated to unemployment benefits.
GOP senators have considered spending between $200 billion and $300 billion on these benefits through the end of 2020, a source told the Post. This would be much less than $400 billion, the cost of extending the $600 per week increase.
Senate Republicans have also looked at new limits on the unemployment benefits for those who were high earners before becoming unemployed, two people with details of internal planning told the Post. GOP senators discussed ending or reducing the amount of federal unemployment benefits for those who earned above a specific income and releasing stimulus checks targeted at lower income individuals.
President Trump has also called for a payroll tax cut and liability protections for businesses to be included in any new coronavirus relief bill. If Trump and the Senate GOP’s wishes are granted, the bill will both cut taxes for people with jobs and cut benefits for people unemployed, the Post noted.
The House-passed HEROES Act from May proposed extending the $600 per week increase until January.
The federal government stepped in to assist the states with unemployment payments during the pandemic. The unemployment rate reached 11.1 percent in June, falling from April’s numbers.