Just days before boosted unemployment benefits for millions of American workers who have lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic are set to expire, Senate Republicans have unveiled a new stimulus package that would prevent those payments from vanishing entirely.
The proposal outlined on Monday afternoon by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) would give unemployed workers an additional $200 per week on top of whatever benefits they receive through state-level unemployment insurance programs. That’s one-third of the current $600 unemployment benefits boost that the federal government has been paying since the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in late March.
“The American people need more help,” McConnell said on the Senate floor as he announced the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act.
The continued-but-reduced payments are on one hand an acknowledgment of the depth of the economic recession triggered by COVID-19 and associated lockdowns—more than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since the start of the pandemic. On the other, they reflect a growing concern among Republicans about the status of the country’s finances after more than $3.6 trillion in emergency spending in recent months, as well as concern that the $600 per week payments might hamper the post-coronavirus recovery.