As negotiations continue on Capitol Hill, some 30 million Americans currently relying on unemployment benefits are wondering what could come next. On Friday, July 31, the $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefit expired as Congress failed to concluded negotiations on the HEALS Act or pass a small bill that would have offered an extension. With out-of-work Americans about to see a significant drop in their benefits, many have been left wondering what aid could be coming in the future, if any at all.
While most things remain up in the air as Democrats and Republicans remain deadlocked in negotiations, the closest idea as to what could come next would be the provisions provided under the HEALS Act. Under the GOP's proposal, the weekly $600 enhanced benefit would be reduced to just $200. This would last through September, after which a new formula would be implemented that would cap unemployment benefits at 70 percent of a person's wages before they had lost their job.
However, this suggestion has been met with fierce opposition from Democrats, who argue that the extra $600 has been a lifeline to many Americans amid the pandemic and the uncertainty it has brought. As a result, some Republicans have offered up alternatives, including a sliding scale that was proposed by U.S. Sens. Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, and Martha McSally. In their proposal, titled the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2020, states would have the option between reducing the unemployment benefits to an 80% wage replacement rate or gradually reduce the $600 enhanced benefit to $500 per week in August, $400 per week in September, or $300 per week in October.
While that proposal failed to be approved before the July 31 expiration of the initial benefits, which were passed under the CARES Act, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested that Democrats would be open to reducing the enhancement. Speaking Sunday on ABC's This Week, she explained that "the amount of money that's given as an enhancement for unemployment insurance should relate to the rate of unemployment." She said that "as that goes down then you can consider something less than the $600."
At this time, however, much remains uncertain regarding what future enhanced unemployment benefits could look like. Congress has until Friday, Aug. 7 to pass any legislation before they enter a month-long recess, at which point no negotiations will be taking place. Any proposal would also have to gain the support of President Donald Trump.