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New Yorkers in need wait in a long line to receive free produce, dry goods, and meat at a Food Bank For New York City distribution event at Lincoln Center on July 29, 2020. (Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images)

"They're Playing With Us": Anger With GOP Growing as $600 Unemployment Benefit Lapses

"All our government wants is money in their pockets, while the people are poor and starving and scrounging."

Eoin Higgins

Americans angry with inaction from Senate Republicans and President Donald Trump on extending $600 a week unemployment benefits are accusing the government of not living up to its responsibility to care for the public during the Covid-19 pandemic as the boost in aid expired Friday.

"In the middle of this pandemic they're playing with us," said Candida Kevorkian, a 53-year-old California woman relying on the payments to survive, told the Washington Post Saturday.

The benefits are credited with keeping the economy from a complete collapse due to the ongoing nationwide Covid-19 outbreak and staving off a wave of evictions many advocates fear is coming now that the weekly infusion is gone. But the initial program, passed in the CARES Act in late March, only ran until the end of July.

House Democrats approved the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion stimulus package which included an extension of the unemployment benefit boost, in late May, but GOP lawmakers in the Senate, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), took no action on the bill, instead presenting a competing bill known as the HEALS Act last month that cut the payment to $200 a week. That legislation was dead on arrival, however, not even generating necessary support within the caucus due to the level of spending.

The White House and the GOP Senate leadership floated a one-week extension for the benefits, but that fix—such as it is—was rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Thursday evening.

"We recognize the gravity of the situation," Pelosi told reporters Friday. "They don't."

Negotiations are, reportedly, ongoing—but the Republican-led Senate nonetheless adjourned for the weekend on Thursday.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told MSNBC Friday night the choice to leave town was "inexplicable" and urged his GOP colleagues to negotiate a workable solution to the ongoing crisis with House Democrats. 

"I hear senators making $175,000 a year complaining that these 'lazy workers are getting so much money,'" said Brown. "People haven't sunk into poverty in significant numbers at all during this pandemic because of the $600 a week."

The fix is simple, 38-year-old New Haven, Connecticut resident Raven Holmes told the Post.

"Money is not a resource that can be depleted. It's a man-made thing," said Holmes. "If you need more make more."

"There are other countries—their citizens are fine, nobody is suffering, and everybody is healthy," she added. "All our government wants is money in their pockets, while the people are poor and starving and scrounging."


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