WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) – Federal unemployment benefits have become a major point of contention as Congress debates another coronavirus aid package.
The bill introduced by the Republican Senate majority calls for slashing the weekly benefit from $600 to $200. Their goal is to replace 70% of a laid-off worker’s income with a combination of state and federal benefits.
Republicans claim the current payment is more than most of the unemployed earned on the job and isn’t fair to those still at work. But Democrats blasted the idea, saying Americans want to work, and cutting benefits could lead to millions more hungry families.
“For weeks now it has been clear to a majority of Americans that we should not pay people more to stay home than we pay people who continue working,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. “Obviously we should not be taxing the essential workers who continued working so the government can pay their neighbors a higher salary to stay home.”
McConnell went on to blame Democrats for holding up the bill.
Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) fired back and said, “And if you’re one of the 20 to 30 million Americans who lost you job through no fault of your own and you can’t find work,
Senate Republicans think you have it too good right now. ‘You should take a 30% pay cut,’ Republicans are saying. This is not a serious proposal.”
“We still have a jobs crisis that will endure for a good while yet, and therefore an unemployment crisis,” Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) said. “The worst time to cut those benefits, those extra benefits, would be right now.”
The clock is ticking with the $600 weekly benefit created in a former bill due to expire Friday.