As Republican Senators Leave Washington to Campaign, Expiring Unemployment Benefits Devastate Constituents

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Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

The $600 unemployment benefit provided in the CARES Act that passed in May has broad support among the American public, with as many as 75% saying they don’t want it to be cut. But many Republicans have balked at extending benefits, from arguing they provide a disincentive to work, to proposing plans that cut them, to outright mocking them. President Trump’s executive orders cut these benefits by 50%. Meanwhile, news outlets continue to capture the dire situation unemployed Americans are in across the country, as Republican Senators leave on recess without acting on the House-passed Heroes Act to extend the full benefit.

National Impacts

An Extra $600 a Week Kept Many Jobless Workers Afloat. Now What Will They Do?

[New York Times, 7/29/20]

Survey: Most Unemployed Americans Have No Plan if Extra Benefits Run Out This Month.

[TIME/NextAdvisor, 7/23/20]

One-Third of New York’s Small Businesses May Be Gone Forever.

[New York Times, 8/3/20]

Almost 30 Million in U.S. Didn’t Have Enough to Eat Last Week.

[Bloomberg, 7/29/20]

What GOP Senators are saying while their states suffer the consequences of inaction:

Texas

Senator Ted Cruz mocked the idea of families receiving $2000 a month Unemployment benefits suggested by Senator Ed Markey.

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Sen John Cornyn said “we don’t want to pay people not to work than to work.” [The Hill, 8/4/20] even though for many vulnerable Americans coming to work puts them at risk.

Meanwhile…

As Congress feuds over unemployment payments, more than 1.6 million jobless Texans are about to lose a $600 weekly benefit. [Texas Tribune, 7/23/20]

Wisconsin

Senator Ron Johnson has repeatedly expressed that’d he’d rather refuse to pass anything in the name of fiscal conservatism than extend unemployment benefits to help working families.

From my standpoint, the breakdown in the talks is very good news. It’s very good news for future generations,” Johnson said. “I hope the talks remain broken down.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/10/20]

“I just don’t see the need for it,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told reporters Wednesday.” [WMC Action News, 7/22/20]

“I’m not for authorizing any new spending,” said Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) [Newsweek, 7/28/20]

Meanwhile…

Over 138,000 people await unemployment benefits as federal supplement set to expire. [Channel 3000, 7/20/20]

“According to DWD, more than 160,000 people in Wisconsin received the additional unemployment benefits during the week that ended July 25. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 450,000 Wisconsinites have received the aid.” [Wisconsin Public Radio, 7/31/20]

South Carolina

Senator Lindsey Graham has been a defiant opponent of the unemployment benefit from the beginning, calling it an “aberration of the law” and saying “I promise you over our dead bodies will this get reauthorized.”

“I promise you over our dead bodies will this get reauthorized… We’ve got to stop this. You cannot turn on the economy until you get this aberration of the law of fixed.” [Business Insider, 4/30/20].

Now with benefits set to expire, he calls the HEROES Act that Democrats passed months ago “wasted money.”

“Senator Lindsey Graham said during an interview with Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures that at least 50 per cent of Republican lawmakers will vote against whatever package leadership unveils. ‘Half the Republicans are going to vote no to any phase four package,’ the South Carolina senator told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo Sunday morning. ‘That’s just a fact.’”

‘And a lot of Democrats are going to insist on $3 trillion, which would be way too much,’ he continued. ‘It would be wasted money.’ [Daily Mail, 07/27/2020]

Meanwhile…

Millions in unemployment at stake for SC as Congress relief talks continue. [The State, 7/31/20]

“210,000 people currently unemployed in South Carolina, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.” [WISTV, 8/9/20]

Unemployed workers set to lose extra $600. It could cost SC economy $120 million per week. [The Post and Courier, 7/24/20]

Kentucky

Senator Mitch McConnell, who initially was against extending employment benefits at all, stalled on extending unemployment benefits until they were on the brink of expiring. Yet he still blames Democrats for making American families suffer when Democrats passed legislation extending it in the House in May.

“I don’t think we have yet felt the urgency of acting immediately. That time could develop, but I don’t think it has yet.” [The Hill, 5/11/20]

“Mitch McConnell promised House Republicans on Wednesday that the beefed up unemployment benefits enacted earlier this spring “will not be in the next bill.” [Politico, 5/20/20]

“McConnell accused Democrats of adopting a “completely unhinged position” in insisting on continuing the $600 weekly emergency unemployment benefits. Republicans say such generous payments act as a disincentive for people to return to the workforce, given that in many cases they can make more on unemployment. Referring to Pelosi, McConnell said, “She’ll just refuse to legislate until the election and wish American families good luck dealing with the pandemic.” [The Washington Post, 7/29/20]

Senator Rand Paul suddenly clutches his pearls about the national debt as UI benefits expire, calling it “irresponsible” and alleging that “we are sending money to people who haven’t lost their jobs”

He estimated that 10–15 of his Republican colleagues also oppose the stimulus. “I think they have the misguided notion that you have to spend this or you can’t get elected. I’m of the opposite,” Paul said of his party.” [Newsweek, 7/28/20]

“I find it extraordinary that I came from a GOP caucus meeting that could be the Bernie Bros, or progressive caucus,” Paul, R-Ky., said Tuesday after a GOP lunch on Capitol Hill to discuss the next stimulus package.” [Fox News, 07/21/2020]

Meanwhile,

Loss of $600 weekly unemployment boost called ‘devastating’. [WDRB, 07/20/2020]

‘Dropping like flies,’ Kentucky restaurants plead for help from Mitch McConnell

[Kentucky.com 7/31/20]

An economic crisis in Kentucky has workers, businesses furious with McConnell. [The Washington Post, 8/11/20]

Florida

Senator Rick Scott said that “Every day they wait” on coronavirus relief legislation “is a good day for the country”, arguing that “we can’t just waste money”.

“I don’t want a GOP proposal that’s going to include state bailouts,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) “Every day they wait is a good day for the country.” [Politico, 7/23/20]

“I’m very concerned about the amount of money we’re talking about,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.). “What I don’t want to do is bail out the states. That’s wrong.” [Politico, 7/28/20]

“We can’t just waste money. So I’m very concerned about the amount of money we’re talking about,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told reporters Tuesday after leaving a GOP huddle with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.” [The Washington Post, 7/29/20]

Meanwhile…

Uncertainty looms for unemployed in Southwest Florida as $600 weekly benefit expires

[Fort Myers News-Press, 7/27/20]

Florida needs federal unemployment benefits extended | Opinion.

“Florida only pays a maximum of $275 a week in benefits. Even with the extra $600 in federal help, the people who receive the maximum of $875 spend most of it — on rent, groceries, gas, electric bills. That’s the point — helping people with essential financial needs creates spending, which keeps the economy from stalling” [Tampa Bay Times, 08/03/2020]

Unemployed Floridians face tough times in August without $600 weekly federal benefit. [Miami Herald, 08/02/2020]

Georgia

Sen Kelly Loeffler said that she “is not seeing a big need to extend the federal unemployment insurance”

We don’t need incentives not to work … I am not seeing a big need to extend the federal unemployment insurance.” [Fox News Interview, 7/22/20]

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Senator Perdue called the unemployment benefits a “premium,” and that Georgia has “got to reopen the economy” but that “doesn’t include a premium that we have just done to help in the worst time”

I believe that, going forward, we have got to reopen the economy, follow the protocols, and, in my state particularly, that doesn’t include a premium that we have just done to help in the worst time. We’re moving past that now.” [PBS Newshour Interview, 07/21/2020]

However, COVID deaths in Georgia are at a new daily record high.

Meanwhile…

Georgia economy braces for impact as pandemic jobless payment ends. [AJC, 7/25/20]

$600 federal unemployment benefits end this week. What happens after that? “But the flow of extra funds is set to dry up this Friday — a tough position for people like Lexie Griffin, who continues to see his hours drop despite wanting to work. “That’s not enough for me to live,” he said. “Gas is going up, food prices are going up and it’s a lot. A lot of people are struggling.” “I can barely pay my rent, pay my car note,” he added.” [11Alive, 7/22/20]

Iowa

Senator Chuck Grassley has a problem paying people to stay at home, even though it’s the only way for many Americans to stay safe during a pandemic.

“Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, noted that “there is a sizable number [of Republicans] who think we shouldn’t … add on anything” above the unemployment benefit already provided by states.” [The Hill, 8/4/20]

“we can’t go to $600 for another six months,” Grassley told ABC News Monday.” [ABC News, 7/21/20]

“We want to continue to help the unemployed but we want to encourage work,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Monday. “We’ve learned a very tough lesson, that when you pay people not to work, what do you expect?” [ABC 7, 7/28/20]

However, multiple studies debunk the claim that $600 benefit is a disincentive to work.

Meanwhile…

Some Iowans worry about losing current $600 unemployment benefits [KCCI, 7/31/20]

74-year-old Iowa man asked to pay back 3 months’ worth of unemployment benefits. “A 74-year-old Iowa man says he has to pay back three months’ worth of unemployment benefits from the state. Walt Oldham has stage 4 kidney failure, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and COPD. Because of this, he self-isolated in fear of catching COVID-19. After filing for unemployment, he says the state now wants that money back. That’s $726 for each week, over a span of three months. Oldham and his attorney say the state claims he left his job voluntarily.” [KXRG ABC 9, 7/23/20]

Utah

Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), a supposed deficit hawk, is “not gonna vote for the bill no matter what.” [Newsweek, 7/28/20]

Meanwhile…

7,000 Utahns file new unemployment claims before $600 stimulus ends. “More than 7,000 people filed new unemployment claims last week, along with 88,134 continued claims, showing unemployment is still at a record high volume.” [KUTV, 7/24/20]

As pandemic unemployment aid drops off, expect Utah’s food stamp requests to pick up

[Salt Lake Tribune, 8/2/20]

North Carolina

Senator Thom Tillis used talking points blaming Democrats in a statement saying “Unfortunately, Nancy Pelosi’s partisan bill is a far-left wish list that contains big spending on things that have nothing to do with COVID, including taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants and huge tax breaks for millionaires in New York and California.” [ABC 11, 8/8/20]

Meanwhile…

With weekly $600 gone, NC unemployment benefits alone are not enough, workers say

[The News & Observer, 7/28/20]

“North Carolina’s senators, Tillis and Burr, continue to be largely silent on any proposals that will help sustain workers through this economic and public health emergency.” [WRAL, 7/28/20]

Maine

Sen Susan Collins has invoked talking points blaming Democrats and sided with employers on unemployment compensation, arguing it’s too much.

“Collins’ office said in a statement that she supports expanded insurance, but that “recipients should not receive more through unemployment compensation than they were previously earning.” McSally’s office also said in a statement that she supports expanded unemployment insurance but did not specify what that would look like.” [Time, 7/23/20]

“Collins told News Center Maine two weeks ago she believed the additional $600 benefit should be reconsidered under the new plan. “It was appropriate for a time to have a plus-up in the amount of unemployment compensation as we were going through these very tough times for families,” Collins said. “But what employers are telling me is that some of their employees are better off and make more money receiving unemployment compensation than returning to work.” [News Center Maine, 7/27/20]

“I hope the President’s actions will prompt Democratic leaders to negotiate seriously to reach a much-needed agreement to help struggling families, seniors, schools, businesses, municipalities & the USPS with this persistent pandemic. Three times, Senate Democratic leaders blocked extending extra unemployment benefits to prevent their expiration during the negotiations.“ [Senate Office Statement, 8/9/20]

Meanwhile,

Mainers face income drops, more delays as Congress mulls virus unemployment extension [Bangor Daily News, 7/28/20]

Maine industries hit hardest by virus-related layoffs didn’t get the most federal loans

[Bangor Daily News, 7/7/20]

Mainers fear losing $600 unemployment benefit as GOP senators propose cutting to $200. [News Center Maine, 7/27/20]

Arizona

Senator Martha McSally’s proposal cuts UI benefits from $600 to $500 before phasing down to $300 a month.

Meanwhile…

With Congress Stalled, Unemployed Arizonans Call For Additional Federal Aid. [KJZZ, 8/11/20]

McSally Is Now Praising the Very Unemployment Benefits She Voted Against. [Copper Courier, 4/14/20]

Weekly $600 unemployment comes to an end: here’s how it affects Arizona

[Fox 10 Phoenix, 7/25/20]

Report: Inadequate Unemployment Benefits Could Cost Arizona’s Economy $2 Billion. [KJZZ, 8/10/20]

Colorado

Senator Cory Gardner said he supports President Trump’s executive order, which cuts Coronavirus unemployment benefits by 50% to $300, and baselessly claims the $600 UI benefits “create a disincentive to work”.

Sen Cory Gardner said at an event with Ivanka Trump, “Let’s not create a disincentive to work, but let’s make sure that we’re taking care of people,” Gardner said at the event. [Colorado Times Recorder, 07/27/2020]

He also said that, “The Senate will continue to fight for bipartisan relief for workers and continued unemployment assistance, which I support,” Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner said in a statement. “Senator Schumer rejected extended unemployment benefits and I urge him to change his mind and help those who need it most.”

“In a statement, Sen. Cory Gardner’s spokesperson said he supports the president’s move to extend the unemployment assistance for Coloradans hurting because [of] the pandemic.” [ABC 7 Denver, 08/10/2020]

However, a Yale study among others found that “expanded jobless benefits did not reduce employment”. Meanwhile,

Thousands Of Coloradans Are About to Lose $600 In Weekly Unemployment Benefits. What’s Next For Them? [Colorado Public Radio, 7/22/20]

Colorado scrambles to interpret Trump’s unemployment benefits order. Governor says state has enough money for 2–3 weeks. “Trump signed an executive order Saturday that extends enhanced federal unemployment payments at $400 per week — down from a previous $600 — but only if states cover 25% of those costs. It’s unclear what happens to cash-strapped states, like Colorado, that may be unable to chip in the extra $100 per week, or where the money for that $100 per week can come from.” [The Denver Post, 8/10/20]

Federal Unemployment Cliff Could Drop $20 Million A Month From Colorado Budget. [Colorado Public Radio News, 8/11/20]

Opinion: Colorado workers need Cory Gardner to do his job and help us feed our families. [The Colorado Sun, 8/5/20]

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