WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the Senate negotiates the next coronavirus relief legislation, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to extend enhanced unemployment benefits in the upcoming legislation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 30 million people have lost their jobs, 49 states have experienced rising unemployment and with states scaling back plans to reopen businesses, unemployment numbers continue to rise. In the week ending July 18, there were 1,416,000 new unemployment insurance claims, an increase of 109,000 from the previous week. While the CARES Act authorized Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) those benefits are set to expire on July 31. In a letter to McConnell, Gillibrand called for these benefits to be extended to provide a vital lifeline to families struggling during this public health and economic crisis.
“It’s been more than two months since the House passed the HEROES Act, which included an extension of the $600 benefits through the start of next year. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have dragged their heels and failed to come up with a viable alternative to help struggling families weather the COVID-19 crisis,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It’s urgent that the Senate extend these vital unemployment benefits in the next package as unemployment numbers continue to rise in every corner of our country. I’m urging Leader McConnell to act now to provide desperately needed relief for struggling American workers.”
Unemployment insurance benefits have been one of the most effective means of stimulating our economy in previous recessions and during the pandemic, families have relied on the federal enhanced unemployment insurance benefit to cover their health insurance, utilities, food, and rent and mortgages. Now, as the first of the month approaches and the moratorium on evictions set to expire at the end of July, millions of Americans are at risk of being evicted if they are unable to afford rent after receiving their last enhanced unemployment check. Congress must include the critical $600 per week unemployment benefit through January 31, 2021, to keep families afloat during this crisis.
States across the country—from Tennessee to Ohio to Louisiana—have warned that McConnell’s plan could lead to weeks or even months of delays in unemployment payments.