House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling on her Republican colleagues to join Democrats in saving the recently expired $600 unemployment benefit after stimulus relief bill negotiations collapsed. President Donald Trump on Saturday had renewed the benefit at a reduced price of $400 per week, though the executive order contains a number of caveats, including cash-strapped states having to provide 25% of that sum and that benefit only scheduled to last approximately a month. On Monday, Pelosi joined the round of lawmakers speaking out after the president signed the orders, not so subtly placing blame on Republicans for refusing to pass necessary provisions to help keep Americans afloat amid the economic crisis.
Right now, children in America are going hungry – and yet Republicans refuse to deliver the unemployment insurance & nutrition assistance their families need. Grateful to all who are fasting today & otherwise calling for Republicans to work with Democrats to #SaveThe600!— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 11, 2020
Enhanced unemployment benefits had been a sticking point in negotiations. While Democrats had argued that the bonus was a lifeline to many receiving unemployment benefits, as it helped them pay bills and supply food and other necessities for themselves and their families, Republicans had expressed concern that it dissuaded people from returning to work. In their proposal, they had sought to extend the benefit, which expired on July 31, at a rate of $200 per week through September.
As Pelosi pointed out, the HEALS Act also failed to extend the Pandemic EBT program and expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Instead, it offered up a tax deduction for business lunches, with Republican Sen. Tim Scott, who introduced it, stating that the provision would "lead to more customers, more opportunities for hardworking waitstaff and kitchen staff, and much needed revenue for small businesses across the country."
According to an analysis of the Census Bureau's weekly household data survey in early July, which was reported on by the Washington Post, approximately 26 million adults reported going without enough food to eat in the previous week, and roughly one in three low-income families have reported experiencing food insecurity in the last 30 days. Lisa Davis, senior vice president of Share Our Strength, a hunger charity, said that the GOP's failure to provide food security amid the pandemic, which has led to staggering unemployment levels, "is deeply disappointing."
At this time, it remains unclear if negotiations will resume on Capitol Hill. While both sides have called for talks to begin again, a central member at the negotiation table, White House chief of Staff Mark Meadows, is out for the week, pausing any further progress on a potential relief bill.