Congress approved a $600 unemployment bonus on top of state payments as part of its coronavirus relief efforts in March.
Those weekly payments are set to expire on July 31, with the last payments coming the week prior, and there's no consensus yet among lawmakers about extending them.
Republicans, who oppose extending the bonus at current levels, have floated the idea of a "return to work" bonus instead of extending jobless benefits.
The White House has toyed with the idea of $200 and $400 in additional unemployment payments, down from the original $600.
The extra $600 Congress afforded in March to Americans who were laid off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is set to expire at the end of July, even as many businesses around the country remain unable to open.
The weekly payments are in addition to state benefits, which vary based on location and previous wages, averaging a combined $978 per week nationwide. For many workers, the checks have totaled more than their previous income. But with unemployment still at record levels, that could soon change if lawmakers don't act before August. To make matters worse, the final payments will come around July 25 or 26, depending on location.
As some businesses re-open, helping dampen the still-high jobless rate, the virus continues to hit new records in the United States. In the first weeks of July, the US continued to report record daily case counts and remains the world's epicenter of the pandemic.
Even once the virus subsides, unemployment levels will remain in double digits for the rest of 2020, and average 10% through 2021, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates. That's likely unwelcome news for the more than 11 million Americans out of work as of June.
What happens next
Congressional Democrats want to extend the $600 supplement. Lawmakers have included the provision in several proposals, including its HEROES Act which recently passed the House, but they're likely to be dead on arrival to the Senate.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it "a crazy policy" in a call with House Republicans in May. At least half the labor force is earning more on unemployment than in their old positions.
Other options mulled by the Democratic side include connecting the size of unemployment payments to the nation's economic health through automatic stabilizers. In a scenario Rep. Don Beyer proposed, weekly benefit checks would gradually scale back from $600 to $300 as the country's economy recovers.
Some Republicans have supported the idea of paying people to return to work. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio unveiled a plan last month to pay $450 a week for workers heading back to their old jobs or new ones.
The White House seemed to open the door to more payments of lesser amounts, the Washington Post reported. And other administration members — including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — have said they're open to the idea of another round of stimulus payments.
"I think we're going to seriously look at whether we want to do more direct money to stimulate the economy," Mnuchin said while testifying before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. He didn't offer specifics on amounts.
The White House appears to be on board with the idea of more direct payments as well.
"I think the president has been very clear that he's supportive of another stimulus check," Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said on earlier in July. "And yet at the same time, we want to make sure we're addressing things in a real systemic way."
Read the original article on Business Insider