A core part of lawmakers’ job is to make sure their constituents have access to government programs that are designed to help them.To that end, many members of Congress are pointing to expanded unemployment benefits they authorized last week as part of a massive coronavirus pandemic response bill, which will boost weekly benefits by $600.Among the lawmakers touting the additional $600: Senate Republicans who voted against it.“This package that we passed will provide $600 a week on top of the Montana benefit if you’re unemployed,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) told a local TV station the day after the bill passed. “That’s very significant. It more than doubles what the state of Montana pays. That’s taking care of those Montanans who’ve lost their jobs.”But Daines, like most of his other GOP colleagues, supported an amendment to the bill offered by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) that would have capped unemployment benefits and denied some people the extra $600. The Senate rejected the amendment before ultimately passing the bill last week.A spokesperson for Daines said the senator “worked to include nearly full wage unemployment insurance in the coronavirus economic recovery bill. The senator did not think that unemployment insurance should pay more than the job a person lost.”Sasse argued the added benefits would incentivize workers to stay unemployed.“This bill, as currently drafted, creates a perverse incentive for men and women who are sidelined to then not leave the sidelines to come back to work,” Sasse claimed on the Senate floor.His amendment, which all but two Senate Republicans voted for, would have directed state unemployment agencies not to give claimants the full $600 per week if it would exceed their prior wage when combined with their regular benefit allotment.
The Huffington Post article also notes that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY) came up with $600 with the Trump Administration in the negotiations because “because it’s roughly the difference between the average unemployment payment of about $360 and the average weekly wage of about $980.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D. CA) calls out McConnell in the article for voting against this. The article also points out that Senators Lindsey Graham (R. SC), Tim Scott (R. SC), Rick Scott (R. FL) and Ted Cruz (R. TX) were trying to argue against increasing unemployment benefits as well. It also mentions these two GOP Senators for bragging about the unemployment benefits extension Republicans tried to prevent. U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R. TX) wrote an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News:
Texas workers and small businesses have been burdened by this crisis at no fault of their own, and the U.S. Senate just delivered serious assistance. On Wednesday, we unanimously passed a bill which will send direct financial help to the Texans who need it. A family of four can receive up to $3,400 because of this legislation, with no piles of paperwork to sort through. It also expands unemployment insurance eligibility, and provides an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits. When it comes to covering bills and navigating this uncertainly, that money is a lifeline.
And U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R. AZ) posted this press release called, “McSally Secures COVID-19 Relief for Arizona Families, Small Businesses”, on her website:
Unemployment benefits will increase to $850 per week (currently $240 per week in Arizona) with expanded eligibility for those who are self-employed, independent contractors, part-time workers, and gig economy workers, like Uber and Lyft drivers.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham assailed the massive $2 trillion economic stimulus bill in a radio interview with Sean Hannity on Wednesday afternoon, calling it “Bernie Sanders on steroids.”
“This is Bernie Sanders on steroids … This is Bernie Sanders running away,” he said on the program, referring to the Democratic presidential candidate. “He could not win at the ballot box, but he's winning in this bill.”
The coronavirus rescue package triggered a storm of criticism among four Republican senators, who argue that expanded unemployment benefits in the legislation disincentivizes people from working.
“If this is not a drafting error, then this is the worst idea I've seen,” Graham said on Wednesday.
They called it a “massive drafting error” that carried “devastating consequences” for the economy in a joint statement — and said they would oppose fast-tracking the mammoth economic legislation unless their concerns were addressed.
The bill would add $600 per week onto a jobless person's benefits for up to four months. It includes provisions expanding the safety net for gig workers and freelancers, who have taken fierce hits in the economic fallout resulting from the coronavirus.
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