More than 100 House Democrats are pushing party leadership to vote this week on an extension of the extra federal unemployment benefits that expired at the end of July.
In a letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Wednesday, 114 rank-and-file lawmakers pressed for consideration of legislation that would reinstate the $600-a-week jobless supplement until the coronavirus pandemic ends. The sweetened benefits would be gradually reduced as state unemployment rates decline.
“We owe it to people waiting to get back to work across the country not only to extend unemployment benefits to help them pay their bills, but to tie these benefits to economic conditions so workers are not held hostage by another cliff like this one,” the representatives wrote.
The letter, which includes the signatures of nearly half of the Democratic caucus, was spearheaded by Reps. Scott Peters of California, Don Beyer of Virginia and Derek Kilmer of Washington.
House lawmakers recessed at the beginning of August before negotiators could strike an aid deal but are slated to return to Washington for a rare Saturday vote on legislation that would provide $25 billion in funding to the cash-poor U.S. Postal Service.
White House officials and top Democrats are at a high-stakes stalemate over another emergency relief package. Whether to extend the $600-a-week benefit has proven to be a key sticking point in negotiations.
Democrats have maintained the sweetened benefits need to be extended through the end of the year — Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it "nonnegotiable" — while Republicans have argued that it disincentivizes Americans from returning to jobs that pay less, a notion economists have disputed. Amid the stalemate, the $600 benefit — created as part of the CARES Act at the end of July — lapsed.
With Congress deadlocked, President Trump last week promised to partially restore the boosted unemployment aid. Under the executive order that Trump signed, the federal government will give unemployed workers an extra $300 in weekly payments.
Trump allocated $44 billion to cover the aid, using money from the Disaster Relief Fund, which is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The benefits will last until the $44 billion runs out, or through Dec. 6, 2020. The Washington-based American Action Forum estimates the money will last for about five weeks.