House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday shut down any suggestion that Democrats would pass a standalone extension of expiring unemployment benefits if lawmakers can't reach a deal on the broader coronavirus relief bill in the coming days.
"No, no, no," Pelosi said emphatically Friday at a Capitol news conference aimed at pressuring Senate Republicans to include a $600 per week employment benefits extension on their forthcoming legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Thursday that Republicans pushed back the release of their coronavirus relief plan until next week. One major sticking point is that Democrats want to extend the $600 per week unemployment assistance through January 2021 while Republicans, who control the Senate, have proposed benefits worth 70 percent of what people made before over concerns the $600 additional payment is a disincentive to work.
"Let's not squawk about $600," Pelosi said Friday in urging Republicans to back a full extension.
In the early days of the pandemic, Congress passed the expanded unemployment federal benefit, which has been the lifeline to stay afloat through widespread coronavirus-related layoffs for tens of millions of Americans. The additional $600 benefit ends this week, with the unemployed only having access to state benefits that are often at poverty-income levels.
Pelosi blasted Republicans for recessing the Senate on Thursday and "fiddling" around this weekend when House Democrats have been waiting for the Senate to act since May when the House passed its $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill.
The House speaker said if Democrats agree to pass the unemployment extension separately, it takes the pressure off Republicans to take up the other planks of their plan, including housing assistance, food stamps, state and local aid, and voting-by-mail.
"I would be very much averse to separating this out and lose all leverage for meeting all of the other needs," Pelosi said. "It's a fraudulent tactic."
Every state offers assistance for at least some unemployed workers based on a portion of their previous earnings. The maximum amounts vary widely, from $235 a week in Mississippi to $1,234 in Massachusetts. Benefits are available for as few as six weeks in Georgia and up to 28 weeks in Montana. Most states normally cut people off after 26 weeks.
The $600 weekly bonus is technically set to expire July 31, though this is the last week recipients will get the extra money. Some new aspects of the coverage are not ending, including coverage for some gig workers and freelancers who are usually ineligible for unemployment payments, as well as a 13-week extension of regular benefits that the federal government promised to help states pay.
Fox News' Sally Persons and The Associated Press contributed to this report.