Congressional Democrats have already voted to extend the Pandemic Unemployment program that offers an additional $600 per week to people who've lost their jobs, but Senate Republicans are still saying they won't agree to include it in a third stimulus bill.
The coronavirus is flaring out of control with new records being set every day and a growing number of businesses are being told to close down -- again -- but Republican say they won't extend the program because it discourages work.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell twisted himself into knots to say they have to do something while also saying he won't extend the program.
"Unemployment is extremely important. And we need to make sure, for those who are not able to recover their jobs, unemployment is adequate," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters. "That is a different issue from whether we ought to pay people a bonus not to go back to work. And so I think that was a mistake."
"And we're hearing it all over the country, that it’s made it harder actually to get people back to work," he added. "But to have the basic protections of unemployment insurance is extremely important and should be continued."
McConnell didn't elaborate on what Republicans have in mind.
It's a misnomer to say that the benefits discourage people from working because some states have already implemented measures that will remove you from unemployment if you refuse to go back to your job.
That's just the most obvious problem with the GOP's favorite talking point, but there are others. For example, in many cases there's no jobs to go back to and that's especially true for specific industries. A family member of mine cannot go back to their job because the chain they worked for permanently closed hundreds of their locations.
If the Pandemic Unemployment program ends about 4 weeks from now, a lot of Americans will see their weekly income drop from about 900 to around 300 depending on which state they live in. Allowing that to happen could be equivalent to a second minor recession all on its own as the program is supporting about 3 million jobs according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Other Republicans have said the benefits are simply too generous.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, a senior member of the Finance Committee, said many in the caucus see the jobless benefits as "a disincentive to work — to come back to work."
"It certainly does not have the backing that it had before because of many small businesses that have come forward and said that people just don’t want to come back — that they were making more than they did when they worked," he said.
Hey, maybe we should pay people a living wage.