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Senate Republicans are at odds over whether to extend the expanded unemployment benefits Congress passed in March to mitigate the economic toll on workers who were laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.
Americans who have recently lost their jobs are currently receiving an extra $600 a week in jobless benefits, which are due to run out at the end of the month. Some states have warned that their increased benefits will expire after this weekend due to administrative technicalities.
“Discussions come down to both the duration and at what price point,” said Senator John Barrasso, the Senate’s third-ranking Republican.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas said he would be open to extending the increased benefits for a short period, telling NBC News that there are “a lot of discussion but no decisions yet.”
Senator Rob Portman said that if Congress cannot pass a larger coronavirus relief package before the expanded benefits expire at the end of July, lawmakers may have to pass a smaller measure temporarily extending them in the meantime.
“My hope is we can get our work done by the end of next week on the broader Covid-19 package because there’s so many things that are urgent,” Portman said, but he added that “if we can’t get it all done by next week, we cannot allow there to be a cliff in unemployment insurance.”
Some Republicans say that the hefty increase in jobless benefits should be lowered when the increased benefits are reauthorized.
“There needs to be a federal benefit continued, but it needs to be readjusted because it’s creating a disincentive to go back to work,” said Senator Lindsey Graham.
Similarly, Senator Ron Johnson said the benefits should be extended briefly but adjusted so workers do not take home more money in unemployment benefits than they did from their previous jobs. Senator Bill Cassidy agreed, called such a result “counterproductive.”
Democrats meanwhile support continuing the extra $600 a week for unemployed Americans and have lambasted Republicans for attempting to lower benefits.
“It appears that the developing Republican proposal is really unlikely to meet the moment,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.