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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks during a press conference in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks during a press conference in Washington, D.C. on April 20, 2021. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

'We Are Clearly Not Fully Recovered': Ocasio-Cortez to Introduce Extension of Boosted Unemployment Benefits

"I simply just could not allow this to happen without at least trying."

Brett Wilkins

As millions of American workers and their families continue to reel from the expiration of federal pandemic unemployment insurance on Labor Day, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced Tuesday that she will introduce legislation to extend the boosted jobless assistance benefits until the beginning of next February.

The Extend Unemployment Assistance Act of 2021 (pdf) would be retroactive to September 6, the day on which the jobless benefits expired for more than 7.5 million U.S. workers. The termination affected not only those workers, but also tens of millions of their dependents, in what one analyst described as "the largest cutoff of unemployment benefits in history."

"I've been very disappointed on both sides of the aisle that we've just allowed pandemic unemployment assistance to completely lapse, when we are clearly not fully recovered from the cost effects of the pandemic," Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said during a Tuesday evening virtual town hall event previewing the bill's release, according to her office. "I simply just could not allow this to happen without at least trying."

According to data released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week, more than 38 million Americans struggled with food insecurity at some point last year, a roughly 9% increase compared with 2019. The report suggested that multiple pandemic relief measures helped to avert an even more severe hunger crisis.

Meanwhile, data from a recent U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey showed that federal income support led to a decrease in food insecurity. On Tuesday, the agency released separate figures revealing the impact of 2020 pandemic relief measures.

"Federal pandemic unemployment insurance and stimulus checks lifted nearly 8.5 million Americans out of poverty last year," Ocasio-Cortez's office said in an email citing separate Census Bureau figures. "Cutting off this aid now, as coronavirus cases surge and job growth stagnates, threatens to reverse that progress and deepen existing inequities."


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