“Recipe for Trouble” to End Unemployment Benefits

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Speaks at a Senate Finance Committee hearing in the U.S. Capitol on February 25, 2021.

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Senate Finance Committee chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Said Wednesday it was a “recipe for trouble” to end unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed and gig workers in August during a congressional hiatus instead of September.

Wyden also said he would have preferred broader stimulus check eligibility of $ 1,400, but agrees with a compromise policy backed by President Joe Biden that would tighten the number of Americans who receive checks.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives on Saturday passed a $ 1.9 trillion Covid Relief Bill, which would affect individuals who earn up to $ 75,000 a year and married couples who earn up to $ 150,000 earn $ 1,400 in checks offers.

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These limits correspond to two pandemic relief packages passed last year that offered one-time checks for $ 1,200 and $ 600, respectively.

Wyden is among about a dozen Senate Democrats who urged Biden this week to endorse laws that automatically issue stimulus checks and unemployment benefits. That aid would run out when the economy improves.

The Senate is now debating the $ 1.9 trillion relief bill, the American Rescue Plan. Democrats want to get a bill on Biden’s desk by the end of next week.

Lower income thresholds

But Biden has backed a plan in an obvious compromise with moderate Democrats to see the $ 1,400 checks expire faster than in previous aid packages. Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote to pass a law without Republican support.

Because of the policy, fewer Americans would receive checks.

However, Wyden believes the policy would ultimately be a success for Democrats as it doesn’t lower the primary income caps of $ 75,000 (singles) and $ 150,000 (married couples).

“I wanted to keep the income thresholds in order to receive a full payment of $ 1,400 at the level of the previous aid packages,” said Wyden at a press conference on Wednesday. “And we succeeded on this front.”

Legislation passed by the House, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, would have completely suspended stimulus checks for single adults earning more than $ 100,000 and married couples earning more than $ 200,000.

The Biden-sponsored plan would instead cut off all payment for individuals earning $ 80,000 or more and married couples earning $ 160,000 or more.

“I would have preferred what we used to have,” said Wyden. “But I just don’t want to distract people from the basic accomplishment that was my goal,” he added, referring to securing the $ 75,000 and $ 150,000 income thresholds.

Unemployment benefit

The House plan also extends the temporary unemployment programs through August 29. Wyden would like to extend this assistance for another month through September.

“It’s a recipe for trouble if this expires in August,” he said.

“I’m going to fight like hell to extend this to September,” he said. “It is against common sense for Congress to build another cliff by mid-August.”

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