As the country continues to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, the additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits is nearing its end. Passed as part of the CARES Act, the $2 trillion relief package signed into law by President Donald Trump in late March as the United States was placed under a national emergency, the enhanced weekly benefit was authorized by Congress for four months, according to Forbes. This means that those filing for unemployment can expect the extra $600 to end on July 31 if the bonus is not extended.
That fast-approaching expiration date has been a concern for many. Throughout the pandemic, unemployment levels in the United States have reached record highs, with the extra money intended to hike unemployment benefits to around the full salary Americans were making while they were working. However, it was met with controversy, as it was estimated that two-thirds of laid-off workers were receiving more money from their unemployment benefits than they did from their jobs, according to Market Watch. As a result, efforts to have the benefit extended have largely been criticized.
Having already made its way through the House of Representatives, the $3 trillion HEROES Act seeks to extend the extra $600 federal unemployment benefit to January 2021, among several other measures, including the second round of stimulus checks. However, the Congressional Budget Office has found that if these benefits were extended through January 2021, an estimated five of every six recipients would receive more in benefits than they would from working those six months, sparking arguments from some that the benefits would deter people from returning to work. The HEROES Act is not expected to pass in the Senate.
A second proposition, however, has gained bicameral support. The Worker Relief and Security Act, another Democratic proposal, would allow Americans to continue to receive the additional $600 benefit for as long as the national emergency or state emergency for COVID-19 is in effect. Once the emergency is lifted, unemployed Americans would receive benefits based on their state’s unemployment level.
Meanwhile, Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, has proposed a return-to-work bonus. Arguing that extending the $600 weekly benefit past July would disincentive Americans from returning to work, he has proposed a back-to-work bonus that would provide an additional $450 a week for Americans who return to work. According to National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, the Trump administration is looking "very carefully" at Portman's proposal.
At this time, it remains unclear if any of these motions will be passed. Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee have described he cut off of additional benefits as a "human and economic catastrophe," stating it would "damage the well-being of American families, but it also would strike a severe blow to businesses and the economy." Meanwhile, many Republicans have had an opposing view, with Senate Majority Mitch McConnell among the most vocal, though he has promised that Congress would "help those who are still unemployed."