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Unemployment benefits: Democrats press Pelosi to find an agreement

More than 100 lawmakers have urged Nancy Pelosi to push for a bill for the reinstatement of the $600-a-week unemployment benefit until the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks by video feed during the virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention as participants from across the country are hosted over video links from the originally planned site of the convention in Milwaukee, Wisco

As the impasse continues between Republican and Democratic lawmakers regarding a coronavirus relief package, more than 100 House Democrats have urged party leader, Nancy Pelosi, to push for an extension of the extra $600-a-week federal unemployment benefits that expired in July.

In a letter addressed to Pelosi, 114 Democratic lawmakers urged the House to press for a bill that would see the reinstatement of the $600-a-week unemployment benefit until the end of the coronavirus pandemic that has forced millions of Americans out of work.

The House is expected to pass legislation on its return from recess on Saturday that will provide $25 billion to fund the US Postal Service as the state-owned entity prepares to deliver millions of mail-in ballots for November's presidential elections. 

“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 in the letter dated Tuesday, 18 August.

Stalemate on extra unemployment benefit

Even if Pelosi does move to pass legislation on the reinstatement of the $600 jobless supplement, it will likely be rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate.

The issue is currently one of the main sticking points that have stifled talks on a new economic stimulus deal. While Republicans agreed to the $600 amount in the CARES Act in March, they want to see that figure drop to $400 in any new deal. However Pelosi has said that the full extension of the $600 benefit is non-negotiable for her party.

As a result of the stalemate between Democrats and Republicans on the federal unemployment benefit, President Donald Trump decided to take matters into his own hands two weeks ago when he signed an executive order to partially restore the jobless aid, which would see unemployed workers receive a federal payment of $300, while states would have the option of topping up that figure by $100 to bring it to $400 – in line with Republican proposals.

Trump’s extra unemployment benefit would last just five weeks

The president designated $44 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund to cover the aid. Under the executive order, the benefit will run until 6 December or until the $44 billion runs out, with experts estimating that the money would last for only about five weeks.

As such, unemployed workers will be hoping that Congress can strike a deal on the extra federal unemployment benefits that would see them receive the aid for a longer time period. Such an agreement would likely fall under a new economic stimulus bill, though on which Democrats and Republicans are far from an agreement. 

When the Senate returns after summer recess in September, one last push will be made by both sides to hammer out a deal before the end of the fiscal year on 30 September. 

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