Nearly 40 million are out of work but McConnell wants benefits to stop anyway

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As 2.4 million more applied for unemployment insurance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will not extend the added $600 weekly benefit.

Another 2.4 million Americans filed jobless claims last week, bringing the total number of Americans out of work to 38.6 million, the Department of Labor reported on Thursday.

The news comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to end the additional $600 weekly payment unemployed Americans are receiving under provisions of the $2 trillion CARES Act Congress passed in March.

According to Politico, McConnell told House Republicans on Wednesday that the additional payments "will not be in the next bill."

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The $600 addition to unemployment payments is set to expire at the end of July.

House Democrats passed a bill last week that would extend the extra benefits through the end of the year.

A blog entry posted by the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute charges that Republicans' criticism of the increased benefits is "either ill-informed or in bad faith." The added unemployment insurance, it says, "has been the best response yet to the economic shock of the coronavirus and should be extended."

"The extra $600 has been by far the most effective part our economic policy response to the coronavirus shock," the institute noted. "It is likely improving — not degrading — labor market efficiency, and we should build on this and make the nation’s unemployment insurance system well-resourced and far more generous even in normal times."

Republicans have been opposed to the added benefit since the beginning.

Senate Republicans unsuccessfully tried to strip the weekly payment boost from the bill in March. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) led the charge, claiming that the added benefit would discourage Americans from working by paying them more in unemployment benefits than they would earn from the jobs they had prior to their layoffs.

The EPI disagreed. "Without generous relief, these workers and their families would have had to run down meager savings and go into debt just to survive during the lockdown period," it said.

"Even without the epidemic, it would be stupid and cruel to use cutbacks to UI benefits that make them too stingy to live on as a cudgel to demand people somehow find a job quickly in an absolute nightmare of a job market," the institute said.

Ultimately, Republicans such as McConnell, Donald Trump, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy say, they have no plans to pass any more coronavirus relief anytime soon.

Republicans have condemned the HEROES Act passed by House Democrats, which would provide aid to unemployed workers, money for more direct payments to Americans, and relief for state and local governments.

Trump vowed to veto the bill, and the Senate is set to leave town for the Memorial Day recess without taking any action on it or any other coronavirus relief legislation.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.