The debate over the additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits is still raging among members of Congress, with Republicans reportedly offering up a new proposal that would see the enhancement drastically reduced. According to a Wednesday report from CNBC, some Republicans are looking to slash the enhancement to just a sixth of its current total, bringing it down from $600 to $100 per week, or a drop from $2,400 to just $400 per month. Whereas Democrats wish to extend the benefit until at least into next year, the Republican proposal would continue the reduced benefit only through the end of 2020.
The news comes as the enhanced unemployment insurance benefit nears its expiration date of Friday, July 31, despite the unemployment rate still sitting at 11 percent. The benefit had been passed in late March in an effort to boost jobless benefits. Likewise, the economy, as a historic wave of unemployment, swept across the nation in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The sum of $600 was agreed upon due to the fact that certain states’ outdated unemployment systems may have been unable to process setting payments at 100 percent of an applicant’s wages. It was estimated that approximately 25 million American workers are currently receiving the benefit, which many Democrats have argued is a necessity in these uncertain times, as 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. Republicans, however, have in vast majority held a different viewpoint, arguing that the benefits not only hurt the federal budget but also dissuade people from returning to work.
This vastly different view in opinion has led to fierce debate regarding the status of the benefit, leading to fears that Congress will allow it to lapse on July 31. While Republicans were reportedly considering a short-term extension, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows dashed those hopes when speaking to reporters Wednesday, stating 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," according to The Hill. He added that he is "optimistic that we can continue to find a real solution and hopefully reaching a compromise."
Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, meanwhile, slammed Republicans in a statement addressing a possible extension, claiming, "Republicans have had months to propose a plan for extending supercharged unemployment benefits, and they still have nothing to offer."