Democrats Shift Tone On Unemployment

( It looks like Democrats are shifting their tone on extended unemployment benefits all of a sudden.

With more than half of the states ending the federal boost to unemployment benefits early, Democrats are now coming around to the fact that it might be difficult to extend the federal supplement beyond September.

Currently, all states have the option of adding a $300-per-week federal supplement to whatever weekly state unemployment amount is given to residents who qualify for the program. But, a majority of the states — 26 in all — have decided to stop accepting that supplement early, before it was set to expire in September.

The governors of those states, which includes both Republicans and Democrats, have said the supplement is discouraging people from getting jobs. In some states, the amount of unemployment benefits people are receiving actually exceeds what they’d make working a job.

It’s not a surprise, then, that they wouldn’t go seek employment.

For Democrats, this has become a political issue in the last few months. They began to criticize Republican governors for ending the supplement early, disagreeing with their point about discouraging people to not seek employment.

They claimed the Republican governors were simply ending the program early in their state for political reasons.

Now, though, even Democrat John Harmuth, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, said it would be hard to renew the federal unemployment supplement beyond its September expiration date.

In the Senate, Democrat Ron Wyden, the chairman of the Finance Committee, also believes it will be hard to extend the program. Wyden, who has advocated for the federal supplement in a major way in the past, said this week:

“I’ve long said pandemic unemployment programs should be tied to economic conditions on the ground. If that had been done in the [COVID-19] rescue plan, there wouldn’t be these concerns about the arbitrary September cut off. But, the way the budgetary effects of these policies are scored is an obstacle.”

Some Republicans have been against the federal supplement to unemployment benefits from the very start. Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, tried to strip that supplement from the original CARES Act, which was passed in March 2020.

Of course, it ended up being part of the final approved package. At that time, it gave people on unemployment an extra $600 per week in benefits from the federal government.

The government then let that supplement lapse in the summer of 2020, but then-President Donald Trump used an executive order to provide a $300 weekly supplement through the end of the year.

When the bipartisan relief bill was past last December, the federal supplement was restored officially. It was then extended under the $1.9 trillion economic relief package passed under now-President Joe Biden in March of this year.

With life beginning to return somewhat to normal, though, many have argued that the unemployment supplement is no longer necessary. Instead, what is needed are programs to incentivize people to get a job, as more people are vaccinated, masks aren’t mandated anymore, and people can return to work settings.