With the news that Senate Republicans will not be revealing their proposed stimulus package until sometime next week, hope has all but been dashed for millions of Americans relying on the $600 weekly unemployment benefit enhancement amid job losses sparked in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Approximately 25 million people are currently receiving the benefit, which was mandated under the CARES Act, though it is scheduled to expire on July 31.
According to CNBC, the delay in unveiling the GOP's package assures "Congress will miss a deadline to extend a key unemployment insurance boost." This is due to the fact that states will stop paying out the $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit at the end of this week. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that Senate Republicans' legislation will be revealed "early next week," so it will be too little, too late to pass any legislation that would extend that benefit, whether it be in its full total or a reduced amount, as some Republicans have suggested.
Although hope had once been held that, at the very least, an extension of the benefit would be passed as negotiations continue on Capitol Hill for a more permanent solution, that opportunity has also fallen flat. Speaking Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stated that "any short-term extensions would defy the history of Congress, which would indicate that it would just be met with another short-term extension." Meadows added that the unemployment benefit should be handled in the larger coronavirus stimulus package, not as separate legislation, stating, "we're optimistic that we can continue to find a real solution and hopefully reaching a compromise."
In response to the delay in passing any form of legislation that would extend the benefit, Republicans have faced criticism from a number of their Democratic counterparts, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Addressing the delay, Schumer said that "the Republican disarray and dithering has serious potentially deadly consequences for tens of millions of Americans."
The likely loss of this benefit comes as unemployment in the United States continues to rest at staggering levels previously not seen since the Great Depression. On Thursday, the Labor Department revealed that for the first time in months, the number of Americans applying for jobless aid increased. In the week ending July 18, some 1.4 million people applied for unemployment benefits, an increase from the prior week, when 1.3 million applied, according to CBS News. That number marked the 17th consecutive week that total jobless claims have been above 2 million.