Democrats on the Hill are pushing President Biden to propose permanently expanding unemployment benefits offered during the pandemic.
They a pressing for the changes in federal standards as part of an anti-poverty package Biden is expected to announce next week. Ultimately, unemployment programs are largely run on a state level.
In a letter to the White House, 40 House Democrats proposed increasing jobless benefits, extending the duration of the weekly benefits, expanding the pool of eligibility and creating a system that would tie payments to changing economic conditions, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Since the coronavirus pandemic took off, Congress has increased jobless payments a number of times, first adding $600 to weekly payments in the CARES Act until December and most recently adding a $300 weekly supplement that will last through September.
“The Cares Act’s emergency programs must be extended to support jobless workers for the duration of the current economic downturn, but we must also fix the underlying problems facing our [unemployment insurance] system so that it can provide economic security for all workers,” lawmakers wrote in the letter.
The White House has been studying unemployment changes, and Democrats on Capitol Hill have been in communication with the administration on the matter, a source told the WSJ.
It’s not clear if the White House will address the changes in its forthcoming poverty plan. That measure is expected to be priced at $1 trillion and include funding for paid leave, tuition-free community college and universal pre-kindergarten.
Republicans have argued that such generous payments discourage people from seeking employment when they could be paid more on unemployment, hurting small businesses.