Coronavirus US

What proposals are on the table to replace the $600 unemployment benefit?

The current measure under the CARES Act that sees unemployed Americans receive the additional $600 a week will end in July. So what is on the table to replace it?

What proposals are on the table to replace the $600 unemployment benefit?
CAITLIN OCHS REUTERS

Unemployed Americans have been receiving an extra $600 per week in benefits as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that was introduced in March in response to the coronavirus crisis.

However, the 21 million people currently unemployed in the U.S. face losing that additional $600 if lawmakers fail to implement new stimulus measures before July 31.

As lawmakers debate the next round of stimulus funding, there are currently three proposals to replace the additional $600. Two of those proposals would see unemployed Americans continue to receive extra benefits, while the third proposal is based on a return-to-work bonus.

As part of the $3 trillion HEROS Act, which was passed by the Democratic-run House last month, the current $600 federal unemployment benefit would be extended until January 2021. However, the HEROS Act must also be passed by the Republican majority senate, where it has already been deemed “dead on arrival” by Republican lawmakers and President Donald Trump himself.

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Second Democratic unemployment benefit proposal

A second democratic proposal, which has been looked on more favorably by both chambers, is known at Worker Relief and Security Act and calls for additional unemployment benefits that are tied to state unemployment rates.

The proposal would see unemployed citizens receive the additional $600 benefit for the duration of the national emergency or COVID-19 state of emergency, after which they would receive benefits based on their state’s unemployment level.

For example, in states where the total unemployment rate is under 7.5%, unemployed Americans would get $350 in weekly benefits on top of their regular state unemployment benefits. After 13 weeks, that would drop to $200 a week.

Return-to-work bonus

With many Republicans arguing that extending the $600 weekly benefit past July would disincentive Americans to return to work, Ohio senator Rob Portman has proposed a back-to-work bonus, where out-of-work citizens would receive $450 when they land a job.

Mr. Portman has said that his proposal “could also benefit the American taxpayer through significant cost savings compared to the current money we’re spending on the CARES Act unemployment benefits.”

President Donald Trump’s administration is reportedly looking very carefully at Senator Portman's proposal, while critics have argued that Beyer’s proposal fails to recognize that the root cause of the pandemic has been the coronavirus pandemic and that it could end up incentivizing people to take the wrong jobs.