(Business Insider) – Senate Democrats introduced a plan on Tuesday to reinstate the $600 federal unemployment benefit, signaling their priorities as Congress debates passing another round of economic relief before the end of the year.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island are sponsoring the legislation. It’s separate from the $908 billion coronavirus relief package that a group of bipartisan senators unveiled earlier on Tuesday.
“The road to recovery will be a long one, particularly for workers in the hardest hit services industries, whether it’s bars, restaurants, events, or tourism,” Wyden said in a press release. “In recognition of this painful reality, our bill ties relief programs to economic conditions on the ground.”
The proposal would renew the weekly federal benefit until October 2021, making it retroactive from September 5. It’s around the same date that President Donald Trump’s temporary unemployment aid program expired.
It would also extend the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig workers and freelancers in every state until the three-month national unemployment rate average falls below 5.5%. Up to 9.1 million people are currently receiving those benefits, or nearly half of all people on some form of jobless assistance, per the Labor Department.
State unemployment programs usually provide around 26 weeks of benefits, though some states like Florida provide far less at 12 weeks. The Democratic proposal would extend the state payouts for an additional 39 weeks atop whatever amount they already provide. Those are currently 13 weeks from an economic aid package that Congress passed earlier this year.
The plan comes as Congress faces mounting pressure to pass another relief plan before the end of the year. Around 12 million Americans are set to lose all their unemployment aid next month, and many have exhausted the assistance already.
But it’s unlikely to become law given the fierce GOP resistance to renewing the benefit at that level. Conservatives argue the payments incentivize people to stay out of the workforce.
Many economists have long pressed Congress to pass another economic aid package to support individuals and businesses as the recovery shows signs of weakening. Unemployment claims have increased for the past two weeks as coronavirus cases surge nationwide, causing states to renew their restrictions and encourage people to stay home.
Janet Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, called on both parties to move quickly on another round of economic aid on Tuesday.
“It’s essential that we move with urgency,” Yellen said in her first speech as President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Treasury secretary. “Inaction will produce a self-reinforcing downturn causing yet more devastation.”