Senate Republicans Looking to Cut Unemployment Benefits to $200 Per Week

While a second coronavirus relief bill is all but certain to pass in the next few weeks, several provisions are still being hotly debated - including the expiring $600 weekly federal unemployment bonus. According to the plan rolled out by Republicans in the Senate on Monday, the unemployment benefit would be cut to $200 a week while states make the transition to a new system that would give unemployed people approximately 70% of the wages they received before they lost their job.

"Our Democratic colleagues know this crisis is still urgent. I know they know American families need more help. So I hope this strong proposal will occasion a real response, not partisan cheap shots," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), said Monday.

In addition to the lowered unemployment benefits, a second stimulus check will also be included for all Americans making under $75,000 (and joint filers making under $150,000). Some Americans could see their payments increase as the bill removes some of the qualifications for an extra $500 to those who have dependents 17-years and older. During the previous round of stimulus payments, Americans only received an extra $500 if they had a dependent 17-years-old or younger.

The stimulus bill would also includes another $105 billion for schools, liability protections for businesses and other entities that reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as additional help for businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program.

However, the bill faces an uphill battle on Capitol Hill as Senate Republicans would need to peel off at least seven Democratic votes to approve the plan - and that's still no guarantee that it would pass the House, which passed their version of a stimulus bill, the HEROES Act back in May. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) derided the plan, saying Republicans had waited three months to "just ran down the block and tossed an airball."

"Senate Republicans have presented us with a halfhearted, half-baked legislative proposal," Schumer said during a speech on the floor Monday. "In short, the Republican plan is too little, too late. The Republican plan is weak tea when our problems need a much stronger brew."

The Democratic-controlled House proposed an extension of the $600 weekly payments through at least January in their $3.4 trillion dollar package they passed in May. However, Republicans have widely opposed extending the current jobless bonus, claiming it provides a disincentive for people going back to work.

However, according to one analysis promoted by Democrats, economist Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics predicts that if the unemployment bonus is cut to $200 a week, nearly 1 million jobs will be lost by 2021.

The $600 weekly benefit is set to expire on Friday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the Senate to get moving and approve a bill that would pass both chambers.

"I call upon the Republican leadership of the House and Senate and representatives of the President to come to the Speaker's Office and join Leader Schumer and me within a half an hour of releasing their plan today to negotiate and get the job done," she said in a statement Monday.

Photo: Getty Images

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