Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont does not support extending the $600 unemployment bonus, he told Yahoo Finance's show The First Trade on Friday. The Democratic governor is one of the only members of his party arguing against the extension of the policy during the coronavirus pandemic. Lamont believes there are better ways to support unemployed people through this crisis.
"Look, I think we've got to extend the unemployment [benefits]," Lamont said on the talk show. "We still have a double-digit unemployment rate here [Connecticut]. And I would be generous when it comes to those companies that are still not open. Our event planners, for example, our bars. There we have got to be generous. But for those companies that are open, which is most of our economy, I want to do everything I can to encourage them to get back to work."
"We can get them back to work safely," Lamont continued. "So I was sort of more inclined towards giving people the incentive to get back to work and not doing a big $600 increase for everybody else who are still unemployed."
The U.S. Congress first conceived of the $600 unemployment enhancement, which was included in the CARES Act back in March. The coronavirus relief package provided federal funding to states, simply adding $600 per week to all unemployment checks, regardless of their initial value. In Connecticut, that means that people who had been laid off received 80 percent of their pay, plus $600 every week.
This funding will expire on July 31, however, and many Democrats are scrambling to see it extended. Back in May, the House even passed the HEROES Act — another coronavirus relief bill that would have extended the unemployment enhancement, though the Senate has yet to consider it.
Part of the logic behind this unemployment enhancement is to reduce the urgency to get back to work. Public health experts agree that social distancing is the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19, and other countries have found success by creating financial relief programs for citizens who cannot work in socially distant conditions. According to a report by Business Insider, many other countries paid citizens more to support them through the coronavirus pandemic, and some — such as Spain — will now maintain a "basic income" program permanently.
Lamont's commentary is more in line with the pushback coming from Republican lawmakers, such as those leading the Senate. Many of them have argued that even a temporary incentive not to work is a danger to the economy as a whole. Still, those lawmakers are expected to pass some kind of second stimulus check in the coming weeks.