UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Will AOC’s bill extend pandemic unemployment insurance until 2022?

At a downhill this week Rep. Ocasio-Cortez spoke about a new bill she would be promoting to extend federal unemployment benefits to February 2022.

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Will AOC’s bill extend pandemic unemployment insurance until 2022?
ELIZABETH FRANTZ REUTERS

In a monthly town hall hosted by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she spoke to her constitutes about a new bill she is proposing to extend federal unemployment benefits through 2022.

In her comments, the Congresswomen articulated her frustration with Congress saying, “I’ve been very disappointed on both sides of the aisle that we’ve just simply allowed pandemic unemployment assistance to completely lapse, when we are clearly not fully recovered from the consequences of the pandemic.”

President Biden has not thrown his public support behind the measure, opting to take a wait-and-see approach. However, this week an increasing number of lawmakers are beginning to publically break with the President. 

Freshman Congresswoman Cori Bush tweeted yesterday “Cutting off unemployment benefits has been proven to do nothing to get people back to work in this pandemic. We need to bring back federal pandemic unemployment benefits until we get the virus under control. I'm proud to co-sponsor this bill.

However, without high-level party support, the fate of the bill that could help more than 30 million unemployed individuals and families, is on shaky ground. During the event, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said that while she was a commitment to proposing and fighting for the bill, she was “not entirely sure the prospects of it... We will work it, we will try but I simply just could not allow us to let this happen without us at least trying."

Efforts to bolster unemployment benefit systems could be included in the reconciliation bill

On 16 September, a group of thirteen members of the House Progressive Caucus sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arguing that the reconciliation package should include funds to improve state and federal unemployment systems.

The group believes this measure should be included because after federal pandemic-related unemployment programs ended, “Our nation is now left with a system that denies life-saving resources to over two-thirds of our unemployed neighbors and that covers less than half of lost wages. In some cases, nine out of every ten jobless workers have no unemployment benefits.”

The lawmakers were also motivated by the racial inequalities in unemployment benefit systems that hurt “workers of color, who disproportionately live in the states with the lowest UI coverage rates and work in the jobs with the least access to unemployment benefits.”

President Biden had urged Congress to include funding to combat the “enormous racial disparities inUI benefit” systems this issue in his FY22 budget. However, the White House, Speaker Pelosi, and Senator Schumer have yet to respond to the letter.