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New policy could extend $600 a week unemployment benefit indefinitely

Published May 7th, 2020 5:01PM EDT
Stimulus package
Image: Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock
  • In addition to the coronavirus stimulus payments that millions of Americans are still waiting to receive from the IRS, a group of congressmen has proposed a new stimulus kind of economic benefit as a result of the pandemic.
  • The benefit would extend the already extra $600 per week that the unemployed can access indefinitely, for the remainder of the coronavirus crisis.
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As massive as the $2.2 trillion stimulus legislation that Congress passed at the end of March was — partly because it needed to include billions of dollars to support direct cash payments to Americans to help them deal with the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic — pretty much everyone is in agreement. It’s only scratched the surface of what needs to be done legislatively, which should tell you a lot about the mind-boggling size of the catastrophe facing the country right now because of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The pandemic has wrecked the lives of individuals, businesses, cities, and states, and among its many consequences, another 3.2 million Americans filed for unemployment last week.

That’s according to the Labor Department’s latest figures about the trend, which has seen about 33.5 million people in the past seven weeks become jobless in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, as millions of Americans await the direct cash payments that the IRS is in the process of sending out (up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples), three Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that would extend jobless benefits (which already includes an extra $600 week paid out as an unemployment benefit) for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

As if all of the above wasn’t enough to underscore the dire economic straits the US is in, ADP reported on Thursday that companies shed more than 20 million jobs in April. It’s because of new realities like that, that projections from the Congressional Budget Office now assume the US unemployment rate will remain in the double digits for the rest of this year, as well as into 2021, thus the need for extra assistance to provide to the newly jobless.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program already provided an extra $600 per week to anyone collecting unemployment compensation, but that was scheduled to end on July 31.

In a statement, Virginia Congressman Don Beyer said: “This pandemic and the resulting economic crisis may continue to inflict horrifying suffering on the country for many months to come. Passing emergency relief legislation that incorporates automatic triggers would have the enormous benefit of ensuring assistance continues to flow to workers even if Congress itself is unable or unwilling to act.”

For now, Congress has not yet acted on this. But in the meantime, in addition to the financial aspect of the crisis, the much more serious damage is certainly to health. The latest coronavirus figures from Johns Hopkins University show that more than 1.2 million people in the US have contracted the virus, and more than 75,000 people have died.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.