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Unemployment Benefits

What are Democrats saying about the expiration of the pandemic relief plans?

The extra unemployment support ended during Labor Day weekend and the different factions of the Democrat Party have been airing their views.

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is a serious player on the progressive wing of the party.
Jim Lo ScalzoEFE

What benefits are being stripped?

The tens of millions who lost their jobs benefited from these new programs:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provided unemployment benefits “to individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or who otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment compensation.”
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), allowed those eligible to receive unemployment compensation, additional coverage as many states have a cap on the number of weeks claims can be made. This program also provided a $300 extra payment sent by the federal government in addition to state benefits.

The President

President Biden has not spoken much about the benefits during a busy weekend, but for a long time it was unknown whether they would continue past the deadline or not. Even two weeks ago, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the decision to extend them had not been made.

But for now they won't be extended. However, the President and his team have been making overtures to states about alternate paths to given out extra unemployment benefits.

Using released federal covid-19 funding, the door has been left slightly open for states to use this money to continue payments.

"There are some states where it may make sense for unemployed workers to continue receiving additional assistance for a longer period of time, allowing residents of those states more time to find a job in areas where unemployment remains high," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and  Labor Secretary Martin Walsh told congressional leaders in a letter.

As of publication, this has been refused by every state in the US.

While nothing has yet been said about the benefits in regard to the jobs report, more bad news in future months could lead to a return in extra unemployment support. In the meantime, there are still some schemes people can use if they need support.

Related news:

The progressives

The 96-strong progressive caucus is split about whether to push for an extension of the unemployment benefits in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation. However, with the extremely narrow majorities in Congress and the House, deviation from the mainline Democrat course could imperil huge Democrat legislation.

The slim majorities mean smaller groups, like the right of the Democratic Party, hold much more power than they otherwise would. Senators Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema made sure that their wishes were acknowledged when it came to introducing a $15 minimum wage, and progressives moves against their wishes would stop any laws in their tracks.

"What we have right now is that the Biden administration has indicated they have almost no willingness to extend the pandemic unemployment assistance program," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Insider. "We have a Senate that doesn't want to do it, a White House that doesn't want to do it — it's going to take a very committed House."

Ilhan Omar, Democrat Congresswoman from Minnesota, said it was "necessary" to extend the benefits.


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