As negotiations continue this week on COVID-19 relief, U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) introduced on Wednesday a measure to extend currently expired unemployment insurance benefits to ensure that unemployed workers receive them through the end of the year. The legislation allows states flexibility to transition toward wage replacement and would phase in lower payments over the course of the next five months. Last week, they introduced similar legislation that would ensure unemployed workers receiving federal benefits would continue to receive them for the next three months.
“Unemployment benefits have now expired, and millions of unemployed workers are facing extreme financial uncertainty while Congress continues to negotiate the next relief package,” Senator Romney said. “Our solution extends the supplemental benefits through the end of the year and incentivizes states to update their UI processing systems. Let’s work together to make sure Americans don’t face additional burdens as a result of a sudden lapse in benefits.”
“Earlier this year, Congress took the important step of boosting unemployment benefits rapidly in order to assist the growing number of Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. It was unfortunate that the Democratic Minority Leader objected to a one-week extension of the current supplemental unemployment benefits as Congress continues to debate additional federal relief,” Senator Collins said. “We must act quickly to help families that have been hit hard by the pandemic. The phased approach our amendment creates would assist individuals who have been laid off by compensating them for their lost wages in a way that does not create a disincentive to return to work if they are able to do so. At the same time, it would support states’ efforts to upgrade their unemployment systems.”
“Hardworking Americans who are unable to return to work by no fault of their own should not be penalized because Congress is still negotiating the next coronavirus relief package,” Senator McSally said. “Unfortunately, dysfunction in Washington is at an all time high. Chuck Schumer has now blocked two of my efforts to deliver short-term relief with a simple one week extension of current benefits while negotiations continue on next steps to defeat the virus, boost the economy and support those impacted. This longer term proposal for unemployment provides support for people still unable to work while incentivizing individuals to return to available work. It will also encourage states to improve their processing systems, so individuals can get relief they need in a timely fashion.”
The Romney-Collins-McSally amendment preserves additional unemployment insurance benefits through the end of the year and provides flexibility to states as they shift toward targeted wage replacement.
- States can choose one of two options:
- $500 per week
- $400 per week if the state prefers not to change the payment amount again in September
- $400 per week
October – December:
- 80% wage replacement, or;
- States may seek a waiver for a flat $300 per week benefit if a state is unable to pay an amount tied to 80% of prior earnings.