GOP wants to slash unemployment benefit as jobless claims rise

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Another 1.4 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week, the first rise in the raw number of weekly claims since March.

Both the Trump administration and congressional Republicans want to dramatically cut the amount of unemployment benefits that 32 million Americans are currently receiving, even as unemployment claims rise and the economic recovery looks to be sliding in the wrong direction.

Congressional Republicans want to slash a boost in unemployment insurance payments from $600 a week to $400 a month, according to a CNBC report from Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the White House wants to lower the payments to 70% of what workers were making before they lost their jobs, CNBC reported. Currently, the $600 weekly payment is based on replacing 100% of the average worker's salary.

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The GOP is talking about cutting the payments even as unemployment claims rise.

The Department of Labor announced on Thursday that 1.4 million workers filed for unemployment insurance for the week ending on July 18 — an increase of 109,000 from the prior week.

That marked the first increase in the number of workers filing unemployment claims since March, and is a sign that the economic recovery is not only stalling but could even be backsliding as coronavirus cases spike across the country.

"The weekly UI claims show a disturbing pattern of rising permanent job loss and slowing recalls from layoff," Betsey Stevenson, the former chief economist and the Department of Labor, tweeted Thursday morning. "The next employment report is likely to show a large increase in permanent job loss."

Meanwhile, Republicans are attacking laid-off workers who are receiving unemployment, with some calling them lazy and claiming the money is disincentivizing them from looking for work.

"We are paying a whole lot of people a lot more money to stay home and not work than they made on their jobs — and that is terrible," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said Wednesday.

However, there is no evidence that paying some workers more in unemployment than they received when they were working is keeping them from searching for or finding permanent jobs.

In fact, data showed that nearly 70% of the workers who went back to work in June were making more in unemployment than they were in their last jobs, according to economist Ernie Tedeschi.

Ultimately, it appears the coronavirus unemployment benefit is going to expire, as Republicans dragged their feet right up to the deadline. House Democrats had passed an extension of the $600 unemployment insurance boost back in May.

Economists say losing the benefit will not only cause hardship for millions of families struggling to put food on the table but also cause even more harm to the already floundering economy.

"That $600 allows unemployed people to go about their regular lives and to spend money and buy goods and services," Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist and director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, told the American Independent Foundation last week. "And if those $600 are taken way, those unemployed people won't be able to buy those goods, and the people who produce those goods and services will lose their jobs."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.