CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus US: Are unemployment benefits being extended?

The additional $600 weekly payment which unemployed Americans have been receiving on top of other benefits is due to expire at the end of July.

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Coronavirus US: Are unemployment benefits being extended?
SAUL LOEB AFP

As part of the $2.2tn CARES Act passed at the end of March, unemployed Americans have been receiving an additional $600 a week on top of their basic $200 state benefits, while unemployment figures continues to skyrocket with the current figure at 11% - nearly three times what it was just before the coronavirus crisis.

That extra bonus payment comes to an end on 31 July and many jobless Americans, who have come to rely on it, are wondering whether there will be an extension as when August comes around, they will have substantially less disposable income – without the bonus, they will have $2,400 less per month to pay for bills and other expenditure such as rent.

With the expiry date drawing closer, some lawmakers have hinted that unemployment benefits could be extended to January 2021 but for everyone in favour of doing so, there are more who think it’s time to reign in the program. One of the arguments against an extension is that the original relief program was far too generous and many people were receiving more in benefits than when they were going out to work. According to one study, about a fifth, had doubled their normal earnings.

Portman's back-to-work incentive

Ohio Senator Rob Portman has proposed a back-to-work bonus - his plan would provide a temporary $450-a-week bonus for unemployed workers returning to work, on top of their wages.

"This would encourage folks to continue safely returning to their old jobs or newly available jobs while bolstering the economy," Portman explained earlier this month. "I will work with my colleagues to include this measure in the next legislative Covid-19 response package.” His proposal would only apply to those who return to work before 31 July, he hasn’t specified what would happen after that date.

On Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that the Trump administration are opposed to a short-term extension of enhanced federal unemployment benefits. The Trump administration and Senate Republicans are weighing an extension of the benefits due to expire at the end of July as deep divisions make a deal on a larger coronavirus aid package unlikely before then, senators said earlier on Wednesday.