CORONAVIRUS

Unemployment benefits with $600 boost: how many have applied?

The coronavirus pandemic has seen unemployment figures in the US rise to levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Unemployment benefits with $600 boost: how many have applied?
OLIVIER DOULIERY AFP

Just over 2.1 million people in the United States filed first-time Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims in the week ending 23 May, the Department of Labor said on Thursday, taking the total number to have applied for benefits since the coronavirus pandemic hit past the 40 million mark.

40.7m Unemployment Insurance claims since March

In all, 40.7 million have sought Unemployment Insurance in America in the last 10 weeks. This, says CNN, means that around one in four US workers has filed for UI benefits.

More than a million seek Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Meanwhile, the week ending 23 May also saw a further 1.2 million apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which helps those out of work who are not usually eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance, such as freelancers.

$600 benefits boost until end of July

Under the the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) scheme, which is a part of the $2.2tn CARES Act relief package passed in March, people claiming benefits will receive an extra $600 per week until 31 July.

The HEROES Act, a proposed follow-up package that was approved by the House of Representatives earlier in May, seeks to extend the FPUC until the end of January 2021, but the $3tn bill has been described as “dead on arrival” in the Senate by US president Donald Trump and Republicans in the upper chamber.

$600 boost "will not be in the next bill"

And amid concerns among Senate Republicans that additional unemployment benefits could deter out-of-work Americans from looking for a new job, the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has declared that there is no place for the $600 benefits boost in any future relief package.

The FPUC "will not be in the next bill", the Kentucky senator told a phone call with fellow Republicans this month, according to Politico.

As an alternative to the FPUC, Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman has suggested implementing a $450 return-to-work bonus, with White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow saying last week that the proposal is “something we’re looking at very carefully”.

Live coverage of the coronavirus crisis

At the time of writing, the coronavirus pandemic had led to 1,770,384 cases and 103,781 deaths in the US, which has been the country most affected by the virus.

You can get the latest United States-focused news on the coronavirus crisis by following our dedicated US live blog. We also have a rolling feed covering the protests over the death of George Floyd here.