The cornerstone of the Republican party's latest stimulus proposal is a massive cut to the pandemic unemployment program that currently offers a flat amount of $600 per week to everyone covered by the program.
Republicans want to replace the flat amount with a new system that would offer benefits based on previous wages, but implementing such a system is no simple task.
According to NPR, even within the Trump regime is it known that creating the new system would take months. The Department of Labor once said it may be impossible and labor organizations are now saying it could take many weeks.
The potential delays are so significant that the U.S. Department of Labor told Congress in May that it "strongly" opposed such a change because states would find it "exceedingly difficult if not impossible to implement."
The National Association of State Workforce Agencies told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that it would take most states eight to 20 weeks to move to a system of awarding weekly benefits on a sliding scale based on the worker's wages before losing their job, according to a copy of the memo obtained by NPR.
The group asked that any effective date for new benefits be set "in the future with sufficient time for programming," a delay that would further exacerbate already lengthy unemployment backlogs in many states.
It would take at least a month for states to set the extra benefits according to individual wages, the National Association of State Workforce Agencies said. For some states, it could take longer than 12 weeks.
“If such a policy solution is chosen, the effective date should be set well in the future, with a continuation of a flat amount until that future effective date,” the trade association said in a document offering guidance to lawmakers. It’s not clear if the Republican proposal would call for an immediate transition or a later starting point, perhaps with a smaller flat amount in the meantime. (Even changing the amount could take as long as five weeks in some states, according to the association.)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he hopes to pass and send a bill to the White House within the next three weeks.
So, if their proposal to cut the program is included in the final stimulus package, and if it takes at least a month for state unemployment agencies to implement the new policy, we could be looking at two months with zero assistance for around 30 million people.
If the program isn't at least temporarily extended at the current level, this could be a disaster.
Reports are scattered at the moment, but it looks like the GOP's proposal will mean cutting the $600 per week program to about $200 to $300 per week for most individuals.