As U.S. lawmakers debate the details of extending or cutting federal unemployment benefits that have helped Americans weather the Covid-19 pandemic, jobless numbers rose for the first time in three months last week as millions remain out of work.\u0022Congress needs to act immediately,\u0022 Economic Policy Institute (EPI) director of policy Heidi Shierholz wrote Thursday of the need for an extension of the $600 unemployment benefit. \u0022If they let the extra payments expire and then reinstate them, it will be a needless administrative nightmare for state agencies, and recipients—who will face a lapse in benefits several weeks in most states—will pay the price.\u0022Last week, 2.3 million workers applied for unemployment benefits. This is now the 18th week in a row that unemployment insurance (UI) claims have been more than twice the *worst* week of the Great Recession. 1/ https://t.co/tg071kRKs8— Heidi Shierholz (@hshierholz) July 23, 2020Thursday\u0026#039;s unemployment numbers hit 2.3 million, Shierholz wrote, once you combine the 1.4 million regular unemployment claims with the number of claimants for the\u0026nbsp;Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program passed as part of the CARES Act economic stimulus.\u0026nbsp;The economic crisis is nowhere near over, she added, and without swift action from lawmakers on benefit extensions things could get far worse.\u0022A disaster of Congress\u0026#039; making is looming for those who have lost their livelihoods during the global pandemic,\u0022 wrote Shierholz.As\u0026nbsp;Common Dreams reported, GOP leaders have suggested replacing the $600 weekly benefit with a $100 weekly payment, a move that EPI researcher Josh Bivens called \u0022both cruel and stupid.\u0022In a statement,\u0026nbsp;Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, said that in light of Thursday\u0026#039;s numbers, \u0022not extending the weekly $600 benefit supplement would be unconscionable.\u0022\u0022When Congress put into place the CARES Act benefits, 8.2 million workers were collecting unemployment. Taking into account the 13 million claims for PUA (which will continue through December 31), there are a total of 33.8 million workers filing for unemployment this week,\u0022 Stettner said. \u0022Given these realities, it\u0026#039;s preposterous that Senate leaders are floating a $100 weekly supplement at a time when there is no end in sight to economic distress.\u0022Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Thursday told\u0026nbsp;CNBC that the administration and Senate Republicans were close to a deal that would keep the benefit at what the Washington Post estimated would be\u0026nbsp;around $200 with a 70% wage replacement.\u0026nbsp;\u0022We\u0026#039;re not going to continue in its current form because we\u0026#039;re not going to pay people more money to stay at home than work,\u0022 the secretary said. \u0022We want to make sure that the people out there who can\u0026#039;t find jobs do get a reasonable wage replacement—so it will be based on approximately 70 percent wage replacement.\u0022No new aid for state and local government is actually just as bad if not worse than ratcheting down the unemployment extension, you\u0026#039;re just going to force states to be as open as they can to hang on to revenue, which will elevate infections. https://t.co/2AleipR3q5— David Dayen (@ddayen) July 23, 2020House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) followed Mnuchin on the network and said that ending the benefit was not \u0022the policy we ought to pursue,\u0022 adding that any drop in the unemployment help should be done \u0022over time\u0022 if at all.\u0026nbsp;House Dems passed the #HeroesAct 2 months ago, but Republicans have delayed, dissembled, \u0026amp; created a crisis at the end of this month when unemployment expires for millions of Americans. Dems are at the table, and it’s time for the GOP to negotiate a broad-based agreement. pic.twitter.com/9aOy3b8x4f— Steny (Wear a Mask) Hoyer (@LeaderHoyer) July 23, 2020\u0022At this stage, you\u0026#039;re seeing all the wrong elements for recovery,\u0022 Gregory Daco, chief United States economist at analyst firm Oxford Economics, told the New York Times. \u0022A deteriorating health situation, a weakening labor market, and a softening path for demand.\u0022In a statement,\u0026nbsp;Groundwork Collaborative executive director Michael Linden noted the economic damage that ending the benefit would cause and called on Congress to act quickly to extend the payments.\u0026nbsp;\u0022Not only would it be morally reprehensible for President Trump and his conservative allies to cut the income of 30 million families during a pandemic, it would also be devastating for an economy that is already severely damaged and heading in the wrong direction,\u0022 said Linden.\u0022Congress must move quickly to do the right thing for families and the economy and extend these expanded benefits until this crisis is finally truly over,\u0022 he added.