WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is offering new legislation to expand pandemic unemployment insurance. Reed’s bill would revise Unemployment Insurance (UI) provisions in the CARES Act and continue to offer out of work Americans a $600-per-week supplement beyond July 31, through the end of the year.
Noting that over 30 million Americans have been forced to join the official jobless ranks over the last two months, Reed’s new legislation, the Strengthening UI for Coronavirus Impacted Workers and Students Act, would extend federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) for those who have exhausted their benefits and includes other changes.
Reed says that in the midst of a pandemic, Congress and the Trump Administration should do more.
“The economic pain and uncertainty people are feeling is real. Bills are piling up and coronavirus has taken people’s steady paychecks. Refusing to extend unemployment insurance in the midst of an ongoing pandemic could make a desperate situation worse for individuals and harm the economy. Being jobless in these uncertain times and relying on unemployment is stressful enough. If Congress arbitrarily cuts them off and tries to prematurely push them into unsafe work environments, it will cost families, businesses, and communities alike,” said Senator Reed, noting that the CARES Act, which was unanimously approved by Congress included $250 billion for unemployment assistance, including the $600 increase in FPUC, and extended unemployment insurance (UI) by 13 weeks. It also expanded coverage to individuals previously ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits, such as the self-employed or gig economy workers.
The Strengthening UI for Coronavirus Impacted Workers and Students Act, would expand upon the CARES Act and make needed fixes to enhance the law by:
• Extending the FPUC through December 31, 2020;
• Making the FPUC retroactively available as far back as the coronavirus pandemic disaster declaration date;
• Codifying into law current U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) guidance to provide a full $600 per week federal payout to individuals whose employers have enrolled in work sharing UI programs.
• Exempting UI benefits from income for all means-tested programs, such as federal Section 8 housing and nutrition assistance programs like SNAP;
• Creating a $300 federal benefit for recent college graduates and students.
• Extending 100% federal financing of UI Extended Benefits.
“In this midst of a pandemic and unprecedented economic upheaval, this legislation would help extend unemployment insurance and maintain economic stability for individuals, families, and communities,” said Reed. “Nobody is living it up on $600 per week, but that sum could make a life-saving difference for thousands of Americans. It is appalling that some lawmakers want to try to financially pressure Americans into choosing between their health and destitution. COVID-19 doesn’t care about the calendar or political time tables. We have to be smart and this targeted, temporary measure will help ensure Americans who are out of work through no fault of their own can afford food, housing, and medicine until it is safe to go back to work.”
The bill also seeks to codify DOL guidance regarding “work sharing” subsidies for employees of businesses enrolled in state-run layoff prevention programs. In an effort to help employers avoid terminating or furloughing skilled-workers and incur the costs of rehiring, and to help workers keep their jobs and benefits, Senator Reed added a $100 million work sharing provision to the CARES Act.