The Original Plan
In order to manage the spike in unemployment due to COVID-19, the federal government granted an additional $600 per week to unemployed Americans. This $600 is in addition to a usually meager weekly amount provided by state unemployment services. Over the last few months, this additional money has been incredibly helpful to help those unemployed by the pandemic. Unfortunately, this federal unemployment relief plan is set to expire at the end of July. The hope was that by this point in the year, COVID-19 would no longer be as prominent of a problem causing unemployment, but cases and deaths continue to rise. There are still 30 million unemployed Americans due to the pandemic. Despite some politicians’ beliefs that the federal benefits would promote laziness, it is imperative that Congress extend them for the benefit of unemployed individuals and to protect the economy from deeper recession.
What Are Possible Options for the Extension?
Congress is under a lot of pressure to pass some sort of extension of this previous relief plan, given that many Americans are still out of jobs, and the current plan is expiring in days. There is no consensus yet on what the extension will look like. There is push back by administration officials and GOP lawmakers to not simply continue the previous amount of $600 per week. Some proposed ideas have been a dramatic cut to only $100 per week or a plan in which workers would receive 70% of what their earnings were before they lost their job. Many Democrats like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, are pushing to continue the $600 per week. It is imperative a decision is made soon so that the days or weeks in which the over 25 million unemployed people relying on the federal relief plan do not receive benefits are limited.
What Are the Concerns?
Unfortunately, there is no consensus yet on what these benefits should look like. Obviously, the $600 a week is costly for the government, but the pandemic has put everyone in a difficult situation financially. So why is there so much resistance to extension of the current plan? There has been talk, primarily from Trump and members of the GOP, that the generous weekly $600 federal aid is discouraging people from returning to work. In many cases, the monetary compensation people are receiving from unemployment exceeds what they would be making at their jobs. However, it is not the case that this is precluding people from returning to work. Millions of Americans have returned to work in the last few months even though they would have made more money continuing to receive unemployment benefits. It seems that most understand that a steady job is worth more than temporary benefits. Economists argue that cutting off the unemployment benefits will not help because the jobs Trump and GOP members want them to take do not exist. COVID-19 itself is not slowing down (in fact, it is continuing to spike across the county), so neither should the unemployment benefits.
What Are the Benefits?
The benefits of extending the current plan are obvious. It would help millions of unemployed Americans financially recover from the devastation that COVID-19 has, and continues to, cause. This pandemic has already taken hundreds of thousands of lives and instills fear and uncertainty into the everyday. Wives have lost their husbands, children have lost their parents, and friends have lost friends. The least the government can do is ease the extreme financial stress people are facing. Americans want to get back to their normal lives and jobs, but with COVID-19 still threatening everyday normalcy, it is impossible to do so.
Another compelling reason to extend the benefits is the indication that without them, it is likely the economy could go further into a recession. This unemployment relief plan is not only essential for people to survive paying the day to day bills but also for consumer spending, more generally. The weekly $600 is not only generous for the individual receiving it, but also for the suffering economy at large as it provides fiscal stimulus.
Ways to Advocate
There is so much uncertainty surrounding COVID, especially since there is so little known about it. Unfortunately, the United States is still in the thick of it with thousands continuing to be infected every day. The virus does not seem to be slowing down and may only get worse as flu season approaches. It is clear that unemployment due to the pandemic will continue for months. There is hope that a vaccine will be available soon, but until people can safely return to work, unemployment benefits need to continue. Otherwise, millions of individuals and the economy as a whole will suffer greatly. The generous weekly $600 is necessary to keep Americans and America afloat for the indefinite future, until the threat of COVID-19 has subsided.
Although certain news outlets have created suggestions for accessing cash quickly like saving and budgeting, there are also ways to advocate for extension of the $600 relief plan. Easy steps that individuals can take are to sign the numerous online petitions, call legislators, and spread awareness online through social media so that the movement gains momentum. Even though July, and therefore the relief plan, is coming to an end, it is not too late to advocate.