Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today released the following statement on the unemployment insurance benefits provisions in the COVID relief package:
“Congress is poised to avert financial catastrophe for millions of families, but let’s be clear, this is not the bill I would have written. Help for those who are jobless through no fault of their own is too small because Mitch McConnell insisted on breaks for his powerful friends that are too big.
“Mitch McConnell started at zero on a weekly boost to unemployment benefits, and Democrats secured $300. While $300 is better than zero, it’s not the retroactive $600 weekly boost I pushed for. Mitch McConnell started at a four-week extension of the additional weeks of benefits and program for gig workers and no additional eligibility for workers experiencing long-term joblessness, and Democrats secured a 11-week extension of both programs and eligibility for workers experiencing long-term joblessness.
“Democrats also secured an additional $100 weekly boost for workers with multiple jobs whose income through traditional unemployment insurance is artificially low because it doesn’t count their self-employment income. Lastly, Democrats secured a provision that allows states to exempt workers from having to repay funds paid out by mistake. Jobless workers have received bills for thousands of dollars through no fault of their own.
“This whole process reiterates the importance of Mitch McConnell not being able to sabotage additional economic relief as majority leader next year. Mitch McConnell is imposing unnecessary hardship on millions of Americans this winter, and he could do even worse once President-elect Biden has been inaugurated. He’s already setting the table for economic sabotage by insisting on a short phase-out of unemployment benefits that removes the hard deadlines that pressure Congress to act.
“While the vaccine is being administered, it will take months to widely distribute. The hardest-hit service industries are not going to come back right away, and continued relief, especially for workers experiencing long-term joblessness, is going to be critical. Whether or not you can feed your family should not depend on Mitch McConnell.”
Wyden negotiated the $600 weekly boost in the CARES Act.