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.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Infuriating Disappointment': Biden DHS Ramping Up Deportations to Haiti

"It is unconscionable for the Biden administration to resume deportation flights to Haiti, despite the country's ongoing political, economic, and environmental disasters."

Jessica Corbett ·


Architect of Texas Abortion Ban Takes Aim at LGBTQ+ Rights While Urging Reversal of Roe

"Make no mistake, the goal is to force extreme, outdated, religious-driven values on all of us through the courts."

Jessica Corbett ·


Ahead of Canadian Election, Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib Endorse NDP

"Bernie, you have fought courageously for public healthcare, affordable medication, making the rich pay their fair share, and tackling the climate crisis," said party leader Jagmeet Singh. "We're doing the same here."

Jessica Corbett ·


US Urged to End Drone Strikes After Pentagon Says Killing 10 Afghan Civilians Was 'Horrible Mistake'

"That was not a 'mistake,'" said journalist Anand Giridharadas. "War crimes are not oopsies."

Brett Wilkins ·


40+ NYC Activists Arrested for Protests Against Banks Fueling Climate Emergency

"We're sending a message loud and clear that the little action that politicians and greenwashing CEOs have taken so far does not begin to deal with the magnitude of this crisis."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo