You may have heard that there’s a new plan on the table to give you an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits, presuming you qualified for that due to loss of employment.
What gives? Are you really going to get an extra $600 again? When?
The answer is complicated by political dynamics in Congress, by President Donald Trump’s hospitalization, perhaps by the election, and by Republicans’ stated concern that $600 a week provides Americans with a disincentive to work.
The figure emerged in a new Democratic plan to break the logjam in COVID-19 stimulus relief negotiations. That plan would give people $600 a week in extra unemployment benefits. The plan did pass the U.S. House on October 1 in a vote. However, that’s where things quickly ground to a halt.
Democrats can’t get the plan through without Republican support and Republicans control the U.S. Senate. Thus, it seems more probable that a lower amount would go through, something closer to the $300 that President Donald Trump pushed through on his own in August.
Both sides have expressed a desire to help people who are unemployed, as well as to pass as another round of $1,200 COVID-19 stimulus checks.
It’s true that people received an extra $600 when the pandemic first started, and Democrats are trying to mirror that amount. But some key Republicans are on the record as criticizing that amount as being too high. The first $600 expired, but Trump stepped in to authorize a six-week extension of half that amount. That’s expired too now, although some people are still waiting to get their retroactive checks on it from their states.
Here’s what we need to know:
President’s Trump’s Tweet While Battling COVID-19 Might Spur Some Action
Even though he’s battling COVID-19, President Trump made it clear that he wants Democrats and Republicans to get a stimulus package done. He can’t do that on his own because Congress has funding authority per the U.S. Constitution. On October 3, Trump wrote. “OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS. WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE. Thank you!”
Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the virus “vicious” and said Trump getting it “kind of chances the dynamic” of negotiations she’s having with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. She said there was still “disagreement in key areas.”
Will a second plan happen? According to CNBC, September’s job report was weak, driving need for another stimulus package. But neither side can agree on the overall pricetag for a second stimulus relief plan, even as they conceptually agree to some narrower provisions in it (like stimulus checks.)
How long would the Democrats’ plan for extra benefits extend? MSN reports that the benefits would run through January. The overall pricetag for the Democratic plan is $2.2 trillion.
This is what the House Committee on Appropriations says about the new plan, “Restores unemployment benefits, ensuring weekly $600 federal unemployment payments through next January and preventing unemployed workers from exhausting their eligibility, providing a vital safety net for the record number of Americans who are unemployed, including those connected to the gig-economy.”
The House plan also says, “Provides additional direct payments, cushioning the economic blow of the coronavirus crisis with a more robust second round of economic impact payments of $1,200 per taxpayer and $500 per dependent.”
The new Democratic plan is called the updated Heroes Act. Pelosi wrote in a letter, “Democrats are unveiling an updated Heroes Act that serves as our proffer to Republicans to come to negotiations to address the health and economic catastrophe in our country. This $2.2 trillion Heroes Act provides the absolutely needed resources to protect lives, livelihoods and the life of our democracy over the coming months. It includes new funding needed to avert catastrophe for schools, small businesses, restaurants, performance spaces, airline workers and others.”
She added, “It has been more than four months since House Democrats sent the GOP Senate $3.4 trillion in desperately needed coronavirus relief grounded in science and data, and Leader McConnell hit the pause button. In our negotiations with the White House since then, Democrats offered to come down a trillion dollars if Republicans would come up a trillion dollars. Then, we offered to come down $200 billion more, even as the health and economic crisis has worsened and the needs have only grown.”
Republicans Want a Smaller Overall Amount
Republicans wanted a plan closer to $1.5 trillion, according to CNBC.
The White House has proposed $1.5 trillion as a counter proposal.
“If it starts with a 2, it’s going to be a real problem,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Reuters on September 30.
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