Senate finance chairman plans to ‘fight like hell’ to extend unemployment benefits for another month

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Lawmakers are trying to push through a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal. So far, this relief bill has passed in the House and now needs to be approved by the Senate to be signed into law.

But a Democratic senator is not happy with the way unemployment benefits will be distributed as part of the bill. In fact, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said ending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed on August 29, which the House bill calls for, is a “prescription for trouble”.

Cutting unemployment benefits a month early could leave many people in a bind

Originally when President Joe Biden presented details of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, enhanced unemployment benefits have been extended until the end of September. But it was never part of the House bill. Instead, the House bill only extends that aid until the end of August — and Wyden has a problem with that for one key reason: Congress is usually on recess during that time.

Many unemployed workers will find themselves with a serious shortfall if unemployment levels in the United States remain high at the end of August and lawmakers are not there to vote on extending benefits. That’s why extending the enhanced benefits through the end of September makes much more sense, Wyden argues. In fact, he said he planned to “fight like hell” to push that date back a month.

Not only does Wyden want to see unemployment benefits extended an additional month, but he’s also pressured the president to support legislation that would automatically issue stimulus checks and unemployment benefits on an ongoing basis, according to needs. That way, lawmakers won’t have to vote on relief measures again and again.

Meanwhile, Wyden said while he would have preferred a broader round of $1,400 stimulus checks under the new relief bill, he agrees with a recent change to lower the income thresholds for eligibility.

Originally, stimulus checks were to be waived for individuals earning $100,000 or more, heads of households earning $150,000 or more, and married couples earning $200,000. This week, Biden announced he would support a set of lower income thresholds — $80,000 for individuals, $120,000 for heads of households and $160,000 for married couples.

Biden’s decision comes after weeks of pressure from Republicans, who have consistently called for more targeted aid. At one point, they even suggested earmarking future stimulus funds only for the unemployed. But from now on, low- and middle-income households who still collect a paycheck from work will actually be entitled to more money.

Lawmakers are eager to see the next relief bill signed into law before March 14, because that’s when enhanced unemployment benefits are currently set to expire for millions of Americans. That means a lot of people could see the stimulus money hitting their Bank accounts in a few weeks. It also means Wyden will have to push his case aggressively if he wants unemployment benefits to last that extra month.

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