Pandemic Payoff: Dems Want Extended Unemployment Benefits

Some 37 million Americans have filed for unemployment since March due to the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic shutdown. Now, it appears Democrats want to encourage even more. The HEROES Act that narrowly passed the House last week included an extension of federal unemployment benefits through the end of the year. Those benefits, currently set to expire July 31, provide an extra $600 per month on top of state unemployment benefits---allowing some people to make more on unemployment than they did at their job.

Rachel Greszler, research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has a new column criticizing Democrats for incentivizing unemployment over job opportunities. "Businesses that are starting to want to reopen are having a hard time getting their workers to come back," she tells KTRH. "They're saying they have to compete with the government's unemployment insurance benefits that give a majority of workers far more than they earned from their paychecks."

The federal unemployment bonus was intended to bridge the gap for workers who have been forced out or furloughed due to Covid-19, but Greszler explains it has unfairly penalized those who had to keep working. "Janitors who are deemed essential are still getting their normal paychecks, while those are are deemed non-essential and are staying home now are getting 168% of their normal paychecks...that's simply not fair."

For now, the federal unemployment extension is in limbo, since the Senate has no plans to take up the HEROES Act, and any new stimulus plan would need bipartisan support in Congress. Greszler hopes that any further stimulus legislation is aimed at creating and restoring jobs, rather than keeping people unemployed. "The longer that these benefits are available, the fewer people that are going to want to come back to work, and the harder it will be to restart society," she says.

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