As details begin to roll out regarding the fifth and likely final coronavirus relief package, one thing is becoming clear: the likelihood of the additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits being extended past its July 31 deadline is growing dimmer. On Monday, as Congress reconvened on Capitol Hill to begin discussions on the package, new details arose, with hope for extended unemployment benefits being thwarted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by Tuesday.
Having discussed the package over the weeks-long recess earlier in the month, McConnell said Tuesday that the GOP bill will be introduced "in the next few days." Although details of this bill remain unclear, CNN reporter Manu Raju reported that McConnell confirmed that the $600 per week in jobless benefits would not be included in the bill. The GOP will instead offer an "alternative" to the benefit, which was mandated under the CARES Act.
McConnell did not specify what that alternative could be, though recent reports have suggested that the benefit will not completely disappear. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that rather than extending the full $600 benefit, GOP lawmakers have discussed reducing it to between $200 to $400 per week, with the lower end of that number seems to be the likelier figure.
Such a measure could prove the best solution among lawmakers, with Republicans and Democrats holding vastly opposing views regarding the benefit. Many GOP lawmakers have argued that the $600 benefit could dissuade Americans from returning to work, as it was estimated that two-thirds of laid-off workers were receiving more money from their unemployment benefits than they did from their jobs. Those lawmakers have instead pushed to have the benefit disappear entirely and instead be replaced with a back-to-work bonus to incentivize people to return to work. Democrats, meanwhile, have argued that the benefit is necessary given the times, as millions of Americans remain out of work due to the pandemic. Proponents of extending the benefit has said that the funds help boost the still hindered economy and state benefits without the extra $600 do not meet the needs of those with food, rent, and other expenses.
Ultimately, Americans will have to wait to see the fate of the unemployment benefit until the full relief package is revealed in the coming days. It is believed that the legislation will total around $1 trillion, as some lawmakers have expressed concern regarding the federal budget. The package will, however, likely include further direct payments to Americans, as confirmed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this week.