Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) conducts a news conference after the Senate Republican Policy luncheon in the Hart Building on Tuesday, July 21, 2020. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

GOP Plan to Slash Unemployment Benefits by $1,600 Per Month Condemned as 'Absolutely Unacceptable'

"The country is on fire and the chief concern for Senate Republicans is that unemployed people have too much money."

Jake Johnson

Progressives are rejecting out of hand a proposal by Senate Republicans to temporarily slash the weekly federal boost to unemployment benefits from $600 to $200 until states develop the capacity to implement a more complex system that would pay laid-off workers 70% of what they earned prior to losing their jobs.

Bloomberg reported Monday that the Senate GOP plan, which was approved by the Trump White House, will call for a two-month transition to the new unemployment system and provide states with an option to apply for a waiver for up to two additional months. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to officially unveil the plan later Monday as part of the GOP's coronavirus stimulus package.

"Senate Republicans want to cut unemployment benefits for 30 million Americans by $400 a week. This cannot stand."
—Sen. Sherrod Brown

"Millions of Americans are out of work and millions of renters will soon face eviction," said advocacy group Patriotic Millionaires. "Meanwhile, Trump and Senate Republicans want to cut unemployment benefits from $600 to $200 a week. Absolutely unacceptable."

Analysts warn that replacing the flat $600-per-week payment with an individualized benefit would overwhelm antiquated state unemployment insurance (UI) systems, potentially causing massive relief delays for millions of people on the brink of financial collapse.

Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst with the National Employment Law Project, tweeted Monday that the GOP's proposed "70% income replacement is a weird technocratic solution to a problem that doesn't exist."

"This would require a different individual calculation for every person. States will take months to get this up while still processing historic new claims," Evermore wrote. "The fact that low income folks are getting more on UI is a good thing and has kept unemployed workers’ pain from spreading in their communities. This is giving people the economic power to make good choices to slow the spread of Covid, which is out of control."

Under the GOP proposal, the $400-per-week reduction in UI payments would be implemented as states transition to the wage replacement program. The change would amount to a $1,600 monthly income cut for the tens of millions of Americans currently relying on the boosted UI benefits to cover basic expenses.

The steep benefit reduction would also cost the U.S. more than three million jobs over the next year, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Unless Congress reaches a deal to avoid a lapse in additional federal payments, state unemployment benefits will revert to the pre-pandemic rate—which averaged about $370 per week nationwide—starting August 1.

"Senate Republicans want to cut unemployment benefits for 30 million Americans by $400 a week," tweeted Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). "This cannot stand."

With bipartisan negotiations over the stimulus package expected to begin late Monday, Democratic leaders have not said the Republican unemployment proposal is a deal-breaker.

Asked about the UI payments in an appearance on CBS "Face the Nation" Sunday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the GOP's 70% wage replacement idea as overly complicated but said "you don't go into a negotiation with a red line."

In May, the House passed a bill that proposes extending the $600-per-week benefit through January of next year. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced legislation earlier this month that would extend the $600 weekly UI boost until economic conditions improve.

"These negotiations are absurd," HuffPost senior reporter Zach Carter tweeted Monday. "The country is on fire and the chief concern for Senate Republicans is that unemployed people have too much money."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

To 'Step Back From the Edge of Recession,' UN Urges Central Banks to Stop Rate Hikes

The UNCTAD chief warns that "the current course of action is hurting the most vulnerable, especially in developing countries, and risks tipping the world into a global recession."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Their Greed Knows No Bounds': Analysis Shows Ongoing Price Gouging by Oil Giants

"Big Oil is boasting record profits and dragging their feet to pass any lower costs onto consumers in order to keep padding investors' pockets," said Accountable.US.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Doing This for My Son': UK Climate Activist Gives Interview While Handcuffed, Hauled Off by Cops

"The government's inaction on climate change is a death sentence to us all," the Just Stop Oil protester said.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Dr. Oz Is a Puppy Killer': Fetterman Campaign Responds to Reporting on Animal Testing

"This is who Dr. Oz is: unconscionable and a danger to others," said Fetterman's wife, activist Gisele Barreto Fetterman.

Julia Conley ·

'We Must Not Stand By': Amnesty Urges State Leaders to Ban Guns Near Polling Places

"Governors and secretaries of state must do everything in their power to ensure the safety of voters and poll workers this November."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo