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GOP Rethinks Opposition to Unemployment Benefits

Michael Rainey

The $600 per week boost in unemployment benefits that Congress passed in March expires at the end of July, and Republicans have vowed not to renew them, saying they are too generous and encourage workers to stay at home. But as the severity of the unemployment situation for millions of Americans becomes increasingly clear – and likely to linger through the election – some GOP lawmakers reportedly are having second thoughts about what to do with the program.

According to The Hill, a growing number of Republican senators are discussing an extension of the extra unemployment benefits past July, though at a lower level. A federally funded back-to-work bonus of $450 is also on the table, part of an effort to ensure that workers are encouraged to return to their jobs.

The recent protests over police violence and racism are also playing a role in changing minds among Republicans, who are worried about maintaining their control of the Senate. “I don’t think we can ignore the fact that this civil unrest is happening against a backdrop of 20-plus percent unemployment,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO).

Whatever form the additional aid takes, it’s becoming clear to Republicans that Congress will have to provide help to the unemployed for some time beyond July, stretching perhaps to the end of the year. “I’m very open-minded about how to supplement unemployment benefits,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the most outspoken critics of the $600 unemployment payments.  

The Senate announced Wednesday that it will hold a hearing next week on how to address unemployment benefits in the next and perhaps final coronavirus relief bill.

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