Millions of Americans could run out of state and federal jobless benefits by the end of the year if Congress does not pass legislation extending unemployment eligibility, according to an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. While the expiration of the extra $600 in enhanced unemployment insurance at the end of last month has been taking the brunt of concern, there could be little to no safety net for people who have lost their jobs if Congress doesn't take action soon.
When the CARES Act was passed, states were required to provide a total of at least 39 weeks of unemployment benefits, up from the general 26-week benchmark across the country. This Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, however, as well as the provision extending those 39 weeks to a gig and contract workers, as well as self-employed people, known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, both expire at the end of December 2020. States offer extended benefits apart from the CARES Act ranging from six to 20 weeks, which do not expire at the end of the year, but the CBPP notes will quickly be exhausted without an extension of benefits.
The CBPP notes in its analysis that depending on when a person began collecting benefits and the kind of benefits they are receiving, "by early next year, it's likely that millions of people will have exhausted their benefits before finding work." This will be devastating for families, as well as Black, Latino and immigrant workers, as the CBPP says: "Most workers whose jobless benefits run out are likely to be left without any meaningful basic cash income support."
Congress appears weeks away from agreeing upon any kind of relief package, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling reporters Thursday she didn't know of plans to meet and negotiate until after Labor Day unless Republicans agree to a $2 trillion spending package. "When they're ready to do that, we'll sit down. We're not inching away from their meager piecemeal proposal," she said. "The press says, 'Why can't you come to an agreement?' Because we are miles apart in our values."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats the same day of "barely even pretending to negotiate," adding on the floor that the Democratic leadership's push for the $2 trillion in funding was not something Republicans would consider. "The Speaker's latest spin is that it is some heroic sacrifice to lower her demand from a made-up $3.5 trillion marker that was never going to become law to an equally made up $2.5 trillion marker," he continued, referring to the Democratic package that the House passed in May. "That's not negotiating. That's throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks."