Second Stimulus: Democrats Push for Standalone Bill for $600 Weekly Federal Unemployment Benefits

Amid talks of a "skinny" stimulus relief bill following the collapse of negotiations on Capitol Hill in late July, Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a standalone bill that would re-instate the recently-expired $600 enhanced unemployment benefit. That benefit, approved under the CARES Act, officially expired on July 31, though President Donald Trump renewed an enhanced benefit at $300 per week, an amount that many Democrats have claimed is not enough to keep struggling Americans afloat.

On Tuesday, Congressmen Scott Peters, Donald Beyer Jr., and Derek Kilmer issued a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to begin a vote on Worker Relief and Security Act. Introduced by Sen. Michael Bennet, along with Sen. Jack Reed and Rep. Don Beyer, in May, the legislation seeks to tie enhanced unemployment benefits to the current public health emergency and economic conditions by using "automatic triggers to ensure that assistance continues to flow to workers for the duration" of the pandemic and the ongoing economic crisis. In the letter, the congressmen cited an urgent need to pass an extension of the $600 benefit, as "nearly 30 million Americans, or one in five workers, are currently relying on unemployment benefits to keep a roof over their head, put food on the table, and keep their kids healthy."

The Worker Relief and Security Act would establish six tiers for states based on their total unemployment rate (TUR). That TUR would be "measured using the three-month average of a state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate." Peters, Beyer Jr., and Kilmer said this bill would "automatically continue, expand, and adjust enhanced unemployment insurance programs based on public health and economic triggers." They added that "by passing legislation that ties unemployment benefits to economic triggers, we can ensure that aid is restored to those who need it and prevent future lapses as long as the economy tells us aid is needed."

According to Politico, the motion is gaining support. The outlet noted that nearly 100 Democrats have since signed the letter urging Pelosi and Hoyer to vote on the bill, which mostly fell to the wayside following its introduction in May. At this time, Pelosi has not directly responded to the letter, though she told Politico that she wished for this week's focus to be on the U.S. Postal Service.